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Taking your editing or proofreading service on the road: Planning

Posted on 16th October 2017; revised and updated 19th March 2018

Personally, once Pete (my husband) and I had made the decision to go for it as location-independent proofreaders and editors, we actually ended up with a year to plan. This wasn't intentional but it fell into place for a few personal reasons, and then the date got more fixed when I realised I needed foot surgery and wanted to be given the all clear and be walking more or less pain-free before heading off. I'm not for one minute suggesting you all make sure you have lots of surgery before planning to hit the road, but it's worth looking at what you need to do and realistically planning how long it will take you to do certain things.

Personal planning for the road

We had a house to sell, which of course could have taken ages, but we had a vague idea of how long it would take and thankfully, by the skin of our teeth and a bit of hardball, we completed the house sale two days before heading off. If you have a rental contract, you'll have set terms and notice periods so it's worth checking those.

When it comes to getting rid of possessions, it's not always as easy as you might think. Charity shops can't take electrical items, nor furniture that doesn't have fire regulation labels on them; storage might be an option but is the cost of it worth what you're putting in there? Loads of friends offered to store things in lofts but I didn't want to keep things for the sakes of it – we decided we could have two boxes each to store in a friend's loft and that was it. This was ruthless minimalism and I loved it! Pete hated it, every last minute of it.

We enjoyed some car boot sales, eBaying, sending CDs to online companies, giving ourselves karma boosts by donating loads to charity, and then giving stuff to a guy who'd wanted to buy our house but didn't the day before we completed, after meeting him in the pub and offering him it all for free. He very kindly gave us a bottle of champagne and he went away with a car full of crockery and kitchen equipment, a massive oak-framed mirror and loads of DIY stuff.

Business planning for the road

The biggest business change required was for me to upgrade my web hosting. I'd had free web hosting from my brother-in-law since 2010 and though it was free and reliable, there didn't appear to be a way to get webmail and I had no out of office function. In the past, I'd used weird workarounds or just told regular clients about my leave and hoped not to upset too many new enquirers by my radio silence – after all, I'm addicted to holidays and tended to have about 8 weeks off each year for actual trips away, not including random days off work.

I got Pete, aka the IT director, to sort me out with an email system that had webmail and an auto-reply service. I can't believe it took this change in lifestyle to push me over the edge into doing this, nor how cheap and easy it was. Switching from POP3 to IMAP really was straightforward, and I no longer had to worry about my laptop being stolen (an important business consideration for anyone, not just nomadic proofreaders, as discussed a bit more in this blog post) and me losing all my emails, nor having to laboriously manually synch my emails across devices.

Pete and I were unsure how nomadic we'd be, as we didn't know how long we'd stay in each place. We therefore needed sturdy luggage but also a mobile office that would be convenient to transport. After all, though I am addicted to holidays, this was also about still offering my editing and proofreading service and this took centre stage in the planning. I upgraded my laptop, ensuring I had a high-resolution screen, bought an external keyboard and mouse, and invested in a Roost. This was in crowdfunding stage when I bought it and it took a while to come, but it's readily available now, as are many competitors. The Roost was the lightest and smallest when I bought mine, and I love it, but many alternative options (including wooden ones) have hit the market since I first wrote this article so it might be worth shopping around.

After our first 18 months on the road, Pete upgraded his luggage to an Osprey Farpoint 70 bag, with detachable hand luggage. He'd previously had a large waterproof holdall style, which was practical when not moving around much but we knew our time in Latin America would involve more travel and a comfier rucksack style was required. One of the main advantages of the bag he chose is that the hand luggage is well padded and offers better protection for his laptop than the previous bag he had. I still use a padded sleeve by Targus for my laptop, and would certainly recommend you look into getting something similar. Touch wood, after two years on the road, neither of us has had any major knocks or bumps to our laptops.

Proofreading service in situ: my laptop set-up when on the road, perfect for many hours at the desk

Confessing to clients

Before I even finalised my decision to take Kateproof on the road, I asked regular clients what they thought and whether they would be put off using me and my editing and proofreading service if I was no longer in the UK. Without exception, every client was enthusiastic about my plans and said it wouldn't affect them at all. One or two said they were jealous I could do this and wondered about the possibility of me posting them a cocktail or two (!) but none said they would no longer send me work. Of course, many of my clients are international, so for them not being in the UK is not even a question of me no longer being where they are.

When I get new queries, I tell clients I'm a digital nomad as I don't want them to feel I am keeping this a secret; after two years on the road, no one has said this is an issue so it's not just my regular clients who don't mind this.

The only impact this lifestyle has had on my work is that I had to tell clients I'd gone in-house for or solely worked on hard copy that I would no longer generally be available for their work (there might of course be times when I choose to be in the UK and could proofread in-house then, and posting proofs back by recorded delivery within Europe might not be prohibitively expensive, though I rarely proofread hard copy even when I lived in the UK). I obviously expected this and it hasn't been an issue for me, but if your work is more fixed, be it geographically or from a business infrastructure perspective, I think this will take more planning, perhaps more work to change the client base and focus.

Without wanting to overlap too much with the blog post about the nitty-gritty details due later in the series, I'll leave this here, segueing nicely (I hope) into the next post about practicalities of being on the road.

Written by Kate Haigh.