When I started out as a freelance proofreader, I was sometimes wary of giving away too many secrets to other people in the industry, for example about how I find clients, how I retain them, what I charge, etc. However, over time, I have realised that ‘the enemy’ can be the exact opposite.
I started networking a while ago and, through one group, met a designer who suggested I meet a few local copywriters. She put me in touch with some of her contacts, one of whom also happened to be a proofreader and, rather than approaching each other with caution and holding back, we spoke freely about our work and how we approached it, which was brilliant. More importantly, the very next day she was contacted by a client to work on a huge project that she couldn’t do alone, so she asked me if I was interested and we shared the work. This wasn’t on a sub-contract basis but on an even footing with the client, and from that contact I have acquired even more work.
Another example is my local SfEP group. We meet every month (split between two groups, West Midlands, and the one I co-run, Coventry and South Warwickshire) and rather than using online forums for help or passing work on, we email each other. Four or five of us all worked on some Eastern European literature last year, all because one member of the group suggested we contact his client as a team (they needed more than one proofreader). By all sticking together, we were able to set the price in line with the industry recommendations and our team approach made us feel more comfortable and confident in doing so.
So, that’s all well and good as it’s quantifiable – from my network of other freelancers, I have gained numerous clients and earned hard cash. But to be honest, the best part of the network is that I have ‘colleagues’ now and not enemies (thanks to Louise Harnby for making me view other proofreaders this way).
The support that we all offer each other* is invaluable, not only with work-specific queries but also with ideas for training, ways of dealing with the peaks and troughs of work and, perhaps more importantly, just being there with an understanding ear. Working for yourself can be very lonely but knowing there are other people out there doing the same thing and who are willing to listen really is a great thing. On the quiet days, you’ll have someone to ‘talk’ to while during the busy times they understand that you may not have time to reply to every email but won’t take offence.
Find a Proofreader is a great way of bringing lots of freelancers together – though we may all compete for the jobs, I’d like to think lots of us are able to turn to each other for help and advice when needed, turning ‘the enemy’ into colleagues and friends whom we can trust.
*Admittedly, not everyone will want to be part of this, but why not join some groups, either in person or on social media, and see where they take you …