Ten Reasons You Absolutely Must Network If You Are A Freelancer

networking, meeting, business

Network.

You must network.

 

Whether you’re a writer, an editor, a designer, a llama wrangler or any other type of freelancer you MUST network.

 

This is non-negotiable if you want to survive your freelancing years.

alpaca who isnt networking

ok, it’s an alpaca, not a llama, but it’s not networking and it looks sad.

I know, it’s a pain. You’d rather walk over hot coals than go to that networking event or join an online forum. Heaven forbid if you have to actually talk to anyone. I know, I sympathise, it can be the most awful thing in the world. But it must be done.

You know what? For years I didn’t network. Honestly, I sat in isolation not being able to get out to networking events in person and not taking advantage of online networking (ok, at the time there were few online networking places, but still I could have tried harder). I attended a few professional meetings, but stayed in the background. Do you know where my freelancing career went?

Nowhere. It went nowhere.

People, you NEED to network.

empty stadium, lonely freelancer

Here’s why:

  1. It builds relationships with your peers.

    Getting to know other freelancers in your business is good for everyone. Don’t see them as rivals, see them as friends. Soon you will have a network of likeminded souls who you can rely on to be there when you need them, and you can be there for them too. Share your failures and your successes, learn from those more experienced than yourself and help those with less experience. It’s all good.

  2. It builds relationships with potential customers.

    Get to know them and help them where you can. Go to networking events geared towards your ideal customer. Answer their questions, help them out and they’ll remember you for all the right reasons. Word of mouth is still king

  3. It builds business confidence.

    You can see where you are going right and you can get help if you’re going wrong. Use your local Business Gateway or regional business advisers, they often have talks and networking opportunities. Use your local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses if you think they will be of use. It’s a great way to let yourself see just how good you actually are at your job. Freelancers don’t get the feedback that the employed do, networking can help fill that gap.

  4. It facilitates learning.

    Networking allows you to identify gaps in your professional knowledge and allows you to address them. Through networking you can spot the perfect development opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the lone freelancer.

  5. It opens doors.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s a cliché for a reason, and it’s as true today as it’s always been. Networking gets your name out there. You will get to know people who you feel confident passing work on to when you can’t fit it into your schedule, and know who to recommend for certain jobs out of your remit. In turn, others will get to know you and pass work to you, or recommend you to clients.

    wall of doors, choices

  6. It allows you to understand your business environment.

    With all the will in the world, it’s much, much harder to understand your working environment if you’re only used to the theory. You can train til you are blue in the face, but it’s only by actually ‘doing’ that you will become knowledgeable in your chosen field. Networking allows you gain understanding through talking to those more experienced than yourself. You can see how others tackle business, see what works and what doesn’t and put this into practice with more confidence.

  7. It allows you to spot opportunities.

    The smart freelancer can spot gaps in the market, see what’s needed or even find a whole new direction to go in. Effective networking can lead you down avenues you would never consider in isolated working.

  8. It builds your communication skills.

    Very few people start off as confident communicators, it’s something that’s learnt. The more you network the easier it gets. Pretty quickly you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t – and soon your communication skills will improve.

  9. It can help you break away from the monotony of your own four walls.

    There’s no getting away from it, networking in person can give you break. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of going somewhere new, to meet new people and learn new things. Networking can make you a more adaptable human being. So what if it takes you out of your comfort zone?

  10. It brings you new friends.

    This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of networking. Freelancing can be a lonely business, and you can be amazingly good at your job, but if you have no one to talk to about it, to chat with over coffee or meet up virtually with over forums and social media, you will feel isolated and deflated. Networking on an informal level can help form strong bonds and friendships that can last a lifetime.

power rangers, super group

Why be alone when you can be a freelancer with a network?

See? It may feel daunting. You may feel like a gatecrasher or an imposter to begin with. But you MUST network. It’s good for your business and it’s good for your soul.

 

 

 

Anonymity And The Copy Editor: Is It Time To Be Recognised?

hidden, anonymous, sculpture, book, editor, copy editor

As an editor I often like to remain anonymous.

As a copy editor I feel that I’m just polishing the author’s intentions and getting their ‘real’ story out there. We all know what it’s like to be tongue-tied, that feeling that you know what you want to say but you just can’t get it out. That’s what I’m helping with. As a copy editor I know the constructions, the words and the layout. I know how to help. As that’s my job I usually don’t see the need for acknowledgement in a book I’ve worked on.

Sometimes this is because I feel I’ve done my job, been of help to a lovely author or publisher, and I prefer the anonymity.

Sometimes it’s because so little had to be done to the text that I feel an acknowledgement isn’t necessary.

Sometimes it’s because the book isn’t in my normal scope so professionally I don’t need the acknowledgement (it might dilute my public professional goals).

Sometimes, very rarely, it’s because the job was a nightmare and I don’t want to be acknowledged for fear it will impact negatively on my professional standing. Examples are when the budget or timescale was so tight that only triage editing was possible and left behind a lot that I felt needed addressing. Or perhaps the author decided to ignore my suggestions. Or even added stuff to the final edited version after my input was finished (oh yes, it happens). It’s very easy for an editor to be ignored and yet have their name on a final product that falls way beyond their normal standard.

And yet, most of the time, acknowledgements are not needed because I’m an editor, that’s my job and as long as I have done a job well I am happy with my lot.

anonymous copy editor

But I’m beginning to wonder if the anonymity of editors is becoming a problem.

I’ve seen this with my base profession. I trained as a librarian and information specialist. I spent my professional working life as an academic librarian explaining to people that no, I didn’t just stamp books. A librarian is so much more: we train; we handle budgets; we collate, curate and keep vast collections; we deal with the public, students and academics; we disseminate information; we are academics, counsellors, psychologists, analysts, shopkeepers, managers, lifelong learners and gatekeepers of the world’s knowledge. No, we don’t just stamp books.

And yet, librarians are a dying breed. Due to their anonymous nature, and the belief that now the world has Google anyone can be an information professional, librarians are no longer seen as vital. Library assistants are now running libraries. The librarian as we know it is endangered, as are the libraries they once ran and cherished.

library, books, reading room

And the same thing could soon be happening to editors. Because many of us don’t feel the need for acknowledgement, either through author acks or being noted for our role somewhere in the book, the world is beginning to forget why we exist.

The market is saturated with books. How many of those publications are self-published without editorial help? We’ll never know because copy editors are barely mentioned. The editor thanked profusely by the author in a traditionally published book is usually the publication editor who steers the project, the copy editor remains largely invisible.

I decided to pick ten random books from my shelf, to see if I was perhaps barking up the wrong tree. They are a mix of factual non-fiction, biography and fiction:

Two had no acknowledgements at all.

One praised an editor for meticulous and insightful editing.

One, a massive historical tome, mentions everyone except the editor and indexer, both of whom must have worked their fingers to the bone.

In one the proofreader was thanked, but not the copy editor.

A design book gave thanks to designers but not the editorial staff.

One thanked the publishing team as a whole, so that’s ok.

The last three gave no mention of the editorial staff at all.

 

That’s 1/10 giving acknowledgement to the editor, two if we’re feeling generous.

blank books on a shelf

 

But how much of that is down to the copy editor saying no to being acknowledged, or not having any relationship with the author at all? And is it really cause for concern? Are book acknowledgements that important anyway?

Just like the internet quietly brought down librarians, it is potentially doing the same for copy editors. I’ve come across conversations where self-publishing authors have said they don’t need to pay for editorial help when they have Hemmingway, Grammarly and spellchecks to do the job for them. Don’t get me wrong, these are wonderfully useful, but you can’t slavishly follow them, and using them instead of a professionally trained human editor is asking for trouble.

So we come back to anonymity, and we have to ask ourselves these questions:

Are copy editors anonymous because

  1. they really don’t need to be acknowledged,
  2. they don’t feel the need to be acknowledged,
  3. they’re rarely asked if they want to be acknowledged,
  4. they don’t want to be acknowledged,
  5. acknowledgements are personal for the author?

Should editors:

  1. make acknowledgement part of their contracts,
  2. broach the subject of acknowledgement with each new job,
  3. ask to be acknowledged,
  4. ask not to be acknowledged,
  5. expect to be acknowledged.

shy editor

And how should we move forward as professionals doing a job where many of us prefer to stay in the background?

I expect that as time goes by, if we are to survive as a valued profession, we need to uphold professional attitudes, become ambassadors for plain, good quality written language and champion excellence wherever possible.

We may need to step out of the shadows and shout about what we do and why it is valuable before, like librarians, we are sidelined and people settle for ‘good enough’.

 

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments whether you’re an author or editor, let’s get the dialogue started.

Your Guide to Using Styles in Word

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Styles Make Your Writing Better.

Well, ok, they won’t make your writing better, but they make it a hell of a lot easier to format.

Styles also make it a LOT easier if you change your mind and want to create a new look for your document.

They’re also the editor’s friend, so if you want to impress your editor (and get rid of all those pesky tabs, redundant spaces and end of line returns) Styles are the way to go.

 

And they’re not at all scary! (honest)

So here is a very quick guide on how to use Styles – once you start using them you’ll use them all the time.

 

Create your document

 

Word Styles screenshot 1

Right, open up your Word document or create a new one. Depending on which version of Word you use you’ll see something similar to the screenshot. Look above your ‘paper’ there is the Style section of the toolbar.

This is where the magic happens. But you can ignore all those Subtle, Emphasis and Intense Emphasis boxes for now, just stick with the Normal and the Headings.

Write something fabulous so you have something to practice on.

Create a Normal Style

The Normal style is for the body of your document, the main text, the stuff like these words right here. You want to use the Normal style for everything that’s just normal text.

Now, I have a fondness for Calibri when I’m working. It’s a nice clean font, no annoying squiggles and it’s easy on the eye. But you might want something different, a nice serif font such as Times New Roman, or Blackadder so you can pretend to be a pirate.

Let’s change the normal style to something else.

Screenshot (3)

First right-click on the Normal box (the one highlighted in orange here to show that I’m using it right now) then click on Modify.

The Modify Style box will now magically appear on your screen.

Word Styles screenshot 4

You can see that under formatting I have Calibri 11 Automatic colour, left justified. There’s also a nice little box to show you what your style will look like. Pretty handy that.

Word Styles screenshot 7

Now look down the bottom. Unless you want your modified style to work on ALL the documents you create, keep the ‘Only in this document’ circle checked. If it’s not checked you might find that your lovely pirate document style carries over into all those business letters you’ve been writing.

The quickest way to change your style is to just change things in this box, so let’s do that. Just hit the little down arrow next to Calibri (Body) and choose your font, then do the same for size. Let’s also change the colour and get rid of Automatic.

Once you’re happy with your selection click OK.

Word Styles screenshot 5

Ta Daaaaaa. You can now write like a pirate! Aaaaaaaar.

Word Styles screenshot 6

But that’s not easily readable, so for now let’s use your new skills and change it to something else – repeat what you’ve just done, but make it a better font.

Word Styles screenshot 9

That’s better.

Once you’re happy with your Normal style you can stop fiddling or you will NEVER get any work done. Believe me, you can spend hours playing with Styles.

Make sure your text is all using the Normal style. Select your text and click on the Normal box if it doesn’t have a border to show that it’s in use.

Next …

Create your heading styles

When your text is split up using headings there’s no need to manually change things on the ribbon every time you want to change the font and size. Save yourself the hassle (and make editors go ‘ooooooh’) by creating a Heading style and using that.

You can change the Heading in the same way you just modified the Normal style, or you can delve deeper into the Modify box. Let’s do that and alter your Heading 1 …

Word Styles screenshot 12

Go to the Heading 1 box, right-click and hit Modify, which will open the same box you used last time, only now it’s linked to the Heading 1 Style.

Word Styles screenshot 12a

It shows that Heading 1 currently uses the Cambria font in size 14. Let’s look into the format further. Hit the ‘Format’ button. This gives you a whole heap of choices for font, paragraph, tabs, border etc.

Click on font and you get a new box with lots of lovely choices.

Word Styles screenshot 15

I’ve chosen Cooper Black font, lilac, Bold and size 14 and checked the Emboss box, because, hell why not. But you can choose whatever you like, the preview box will show you what it looks like.

Hit OK

Congratulations, you’ve just changed your first Heading style.

Type your heading, then highlight it and click on the Heading 1 box, or click on the box before you start typing your heading.

My heading can be seen here –

Word Styles screenshot 16a

 

It’s not very good though so I’d probably change it.

So now you know how to change Styles, you just do this for every different part of your document.

I’m going to change back to my normal styles and show you a screen shot of parts of a document that are most common:

Word Styles screenshot 17

 

There are lots of ways you can customise the Styles to make your document fabulous, don’t be afraid to play and, as long as that ‘Only in this document’ box is ticked, you won’t really risk doing anything to your other documents. I say ‘really’ because there is always the risk.

Anyway, let’s do one final thing and get you that lovely indented Normal style.

There are obviously going to be other ways to do this, but being totally honest, I like to stick with what I know and I’ve found this to be the easiest way to do things.

Create your indented Normal style

Make sure you are using the Normal style.

Word Styles screenshot 18a

Go to the little arrow on the bottom right of your Styles box and an option box will appear.

Word Styles screenshot 19a

Now click the little AA box (new style box) and it takes you to the usual modify box that you are used to using.

Word Styles screenshot 20a

BUT … this time you will see Style 1 is highlighted – change this to name your style, which in this case will be based on your Normal style. I call it Normal Indented.

Next hit the Format button, then Paragraph and you will be faced with a box to help you format your text.

Word Styles screenshot 22a

The Indents and Spacing tab should be showing you a selection of choices, head to the Indentation area and click on the right arrow next to Special

Select First Line and in the box to the right you’ll see 1.27 cm – you can leave this or change it to the indent you want.

Hit OK and you’ve got yourself a new style.

Now whenever you want to have the body of your text to be indented, apart from the first paragraph, you set your first paragraph to Normal, and the rest to Normal Indented.

Word Styles screenshot 23

And if you want to change the line spacing of your text, go Modify>Format>Paragraph and change to whichever line spacing you like.

So, there you go. A really quick guide to Styles. There may be other ways to do it, but this is the way I use it and it works for me.

You can see now that simply by using Styles you can change the way your document looks whenever you fancy and you don’t have to go through the whole damn thing manually changing the font size, colour or type. You just hit ‘modify’ and everything under that Style changes automatically. And if a Style is based on another one, like my indented Normal style, if you change the original style, the ones that are based on it will change too. Simple.

 

Now you can be in total control of your document and save valuable time, allowing you to write like a pirate whenever you like.