Two’s company, three’s a society

Posted on February 15, 2019 in UK

I’m guessing that most readers of this blog love a good book. I’m also guessing that you find the reading experience smoother and more enjoyable when you’re not tripping over typos, ambiguous sentences, or inconsistencies in the plot or presentation. These are the things that spurred me on into my new career as a freelance proofreader (and hopefully a future copy-editor).

As I began, two societies caught my eye. The SYP was one – what a great thing to connect with others who are just starting out. The other was the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). If you’re reading this you probably already know something about the SYP, so here I want to tell the SfEP side of my story because I hope it might help others find a way forward at this early stage in their careers.

I joined the SfEP because they have a good reputation among publishers, and offer levels of recognition that I thought would look good even to those not connected to publishing (most of my work has not been with publishers so far). There was a lot to learn and this seemed the place to start. I took my first training with another reputable trainer, but I’m soon to embark on my first SfEP course, confident that many in publishing will be reassured by seeing it on my CV.

As a new freelancer, one of my biggest challenges is my lack of experience, and (as I’m sure you know) many want you to have experience but don’t quite want to be the one that gives it to you. So it was such a validation of the choices I’ve been making when an editorial team leader of a prestigious UK publisher said to me that, while my experience was lower than they would normally wish to work with, my progression with the SfEP (I’m now an Intermediate Member) and my other training meant they would consider using me. It’s great when an investment shows its worth, especially because these first years of finding work are known to be such a tough gig.

I imagine that training and recognition are valuable if you’re seeking to work in-house somewhere as well: employers value someone who takes their own development seriously whether they are freelance or not.

Funnily enough, though, the biggest benefits of the SfEP have come through the part of it that I didn’t expect to interact much with: the networking. Firstly, the SfEP has local groups all over the country (as well as the international ‘Cloud Club’) that meet together for a chat about all things life and editorial. This has been great for me as I live out in the sticks and don’t meet many people with the same work interests as me. So getting in a room with others who love what I do and are always encouraging is highlight in my diary.

Secondly, the SfEP runs an online forum. I didn’t think I’d have too much to do with this as once I’ve finished my work I tend to shy away from electronic devices, and I don’t do too well with social media. But I gave it a go, and I’m glad I did – it’s been a lifeline as well as a chance to be part of the lifeline for others.

I once went to the forums with a grammatical conundrum late one evening (proofreaders know how to party!) and when I came back to the computer in the morning a discussion had already started around it, with good advice and some links to find more helpful discussions on the same thing. All that gave me the confidence to proceed with the job and gave me the satisfaction of having learnt something new already that day.

But obviously my questions aren’t the only posts on the forums, and I enjoy offering my own support to others as well as learning so much as I see industry-leading editors and proofreaders (many with other skills, such as copywriting, marketing, typesetting and indexing) talking shop and sharing tips.

All in all, they’ve been an inspiring bunch of people to learn with and work with, and my germinating seed of a career feels richer for it.

That’s some of the SfEP side so far – the SYP journey is just beginning really and I’m looking forward to what the InPrint team (and the rest of the SYP in all its activities) can achieve in 2019.

The SfEP are (until the end of February) offering a two-week trial membership for £10 that gives, among other things, access to a taster forum. If you like what you see, you can join the community and the £10 is taken off the membership fee, which feels like a win for everyone! All that made me think this was a good time to tell everyone in the SYP about the other society that I’m loving.

So if editing or proofreading is your thing (or you want it to be), you like the idea of being an active part of a supportive and professional community, and you’re passionate about striving for higher standards in your own work, try it out here.

Ben Dare

InPrint Editor 2019