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The value of connecting with other proofreaders

Originally posted on 8th October 2012; revised and updated on 26th July 2017

The Best of Enemies Part II (where seeing your colleagues as competitors can be detrimental to your own proofreading service)

As discussed in Part I of my blog on Find a Proofreader, I believe that freelance proofreaders and copy-editors should look at each other as colleagues and friends and not as the enemy or competition. Yes, we may occasionally bid against each other but, more often than not, we can help and support each other, not to mention sometimes work together or pass on leads when we can't take the work on ourselves.

I have made a great network of friends through my local SfEP groups and the Skype club, and via Twitter and Facebook I have also got to know a few other proofreaders and copy-editors, thus expanding the pool of knowledge, advice and support.

Through this network, I have met Louise Harnby (when I initially posted this, we'd just "met" virtually, but since then we've been camping together!), whose blog for people looking to start out in the industry is fantastic. This sort of advice can be invaluable if you're starting out in the freelance world because, as we all know, running a successful proofreading business isn't just about checking the spelling and grammar – it's also about doing the admin and accounts and, most importantly, it's about marketing and selling yourself.

But this advice is great even if you're not starting out. All businesses need to evolve and grow, so taking a different view will often bear fruit. Sometimes it's easy to get stuck in the belief that what one is doing is the only way, but by opening up to ideas from other people in the industry, it can be possible to move on.

Louise's blog about the term "freelance" is, for me, a case in point. I was (note past tense) the only person at a local business networking group to stand up and say, "I am a freelancer." People look at you differently when you say, "I run my own proofreading and copy-editing business", and this has worked in my favour. Would I have realised that on my own? Who knows? But by being open to the ideas of others in the business, I have benefited.

I'm not suggesting we all price-fix or create a union to boycott late payers (though the latter has a certain renegade excitement to it despite my being lucky with most clients paying early!) but by seeing each other as friends and colleagues in a supportive environment, rather than as competition and enemies, it's a much nicer place to be.

A recent case in point of the value of helping "rival" proofreading services

The value of seeing other people offering editing and proofreading services as colleagues rather than competitors has once again been proven in the last year or so (2016/17). A semi-regular client got in touch last year asking for me to work on a project, but I had no availability within their schedule. It was around the time I was preparing to go the Mediterranean Editors and Translators Conference, and I knew I was going to be meeting up with a colleague I'd been friends with online for a while and I thought it would be good to pass my client her details. Long story short, client was happy and colleague was happy. Win! Then, when we were at the conference, my colleague specifically made sure to introduce me to one of her best clients. I exchanged business cards, later sent a CV and then heard nothing, until a few weeks ago. Perhaps my colleague would have introduced me to the client even if I hadn't passed her the work, but either way, this mutual back-scratching worked for both of us editors and also for our clients. Now what's not to love about that?

And the reason I thought to review and update this blog article is because I am now getting ready to attend the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (now the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) Conference, 2017 and am once again reminded of how great the community is and am looking forward to meeting more of my colleagues.

Edited in March 2020 after the Society for Editors and Proofreaders became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Written by Kate Haigh.