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Taking your editing or proofreading service on the road

Posted on 11th October 2017

I recently did a presentation at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders' annual conference about living and working as a digital nomad and was pleasantly surprised at how popular the session was and how interested people were in my stories. I therefore thought it might be useful for other editors and proofreaders looking to make the most of the flexibility of this line of work, or people doing other jobs that aren't geographically fixed, if I did a series of blog posts about key considerations when working this way.

The plan for the blog series is as follows (edited to include some of the new posts and links for those already live):

I haven't written all of the above just yet so there might be a few diversions along the way but hopefully this is enough to whet your appetite and keep you checking the blog for more.

I will try not to repeat what I've already written in a previous blog post about taking my proofreading service on the road but will start with a few general elements in this introductory post.

What is a digital nomad?

I confess to not being keen on the term digital nomad, but as it's commonly used and most people seem to understand what it means, I think it makes sense to stick with it. I prefer location-independent, and if LIP Service didn't have such negative connotations, I'd love to have called myself that, short of course for Location-Independent Proofreading Service.

In reality though, being location-independent can come in many forms: you could have a home office but regularly work from a café or library or other family member's house; you could have a house in the UK and a holiday home somewhere with more reliable weather; you could have a permanent base and just like long holidays where you're happy to work; or you could be more permanently on the move, and how often you change locations will obviously vary according to your preferences, visa requirements and personal circumstances.

As I mentioned in my presentation, one of the reasons for becoming a freelance proofreader was because I always thought my husband (Pete) would need to travel for his work (he is a chartered engineer though now also works as an editor, predominantly for technical documents) and I didn't want to just follow him around like a lost puppy. By having a location-independent business, I'd have been able to work wherever he needed to go, and though he never did need to travel much with work, this obviously meant my business was at a good stage to be taken on the road when we both decided we hadn't seen enough of the world.

Office with a view: proofreading with the backdrop of Bulgarian mountains

What if you don't have a business already?

I had the benefit of already having a successful proofreading business up and running, with regular clients, regular queries from potential clients and a network or colleagues and friends for support. But Pete started relatively from scratch, albeit with an in-house mentor and advice on what to do to kick-start his technical editing business, and I know other people who have made a go of their businesses when they're already on the road. The increase in online training options, such as those provided by SfEP and the Publishing Training Centre, mean you can be anywhere in the world to do this, though this will obviously require time to complete the courses and how that fits with earning money at the same time might not suit you if you don't have a decent bit of savings behind you.

Many people go to countries with low cost of living to start their businesses and that could of course be an option, but as it's not what I did or have experience of, I can't really say much more on that.

Any questions?

Since this is the start of the blog series, I thought I'd ask now if you have any questions or elements you'd specifically like me to cover during this series. If I get lots of queries, I could do an online Q&A session as the final post, and if you have very specific questions and just want some individual advice, feel free to get in touch. It's best if you email me the questions or post them on my Facebook page.

Written by Kate Haigh.