Freelancer of the Month March 2014 – Sarah Nisbet


The Freelancer of the Month feature is back after a six-month hiatus! This time we caught up with proofreader and copy-editor Sarah Nisbet of Inkshed Editorial who very kindly shared her proofreading experiences and insights with us.

Hi Sarah! Please can you tell us a little bit about the nature of your business?

I specialise in proofreading and light copy-editing, but I am also able to offer content writing. My non-fiction subject areas are humanities, such as history, archaeology and education; when working with fiction I am happy with most genres, including children’s and young adults’ books. However, the subject areas that I work within are growing all the time, and I love learning about topics that are new to me: for example, some of my recent clients include companies and individuals involved in business, branding and digital media.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.

I have worked within different professions since leaving university (many years ago … nope, I’m not saying how many), my favourites being archaeology, teaching and library work. I decided that the time was right to do something that I had been thinking about for a while: learn how to proofread. I felt that my eye for detail and my love of reading would stand me in good stead – but as I soon found out, there is more to it than that! The course that I did taught me about the processes involved in proofreading, and by the end of it I felt confident that I could offer a professional, flexible service to a variety of clients. Although I believed I had achieved a lot in completing my course there were plenty more challenges to come, as going ‘live’ brought its own learning curve. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but I haven’t looked back – not even once!

 What do you enjoy most about running your own business?

Where to start? I love the job, so to be earning a living from it is wonderful – as is having happy clients: it really is a fantastic feeling to know that clients are pleased with the work I have done for them. Also I feel very lucky that I get the chance to work with a variety of subject matter from day to day (for example, I might start the week with proofreading a history book and end it with writing or editing a press release). I’m pretty good at motivating myself and I’m really enjoying being my own boss and growing my own business; in fact I think that it’s my ideal scenario and something that I should have tried earlier! On the practical side of things, as I have a young family the fact that I can work flexible hours, from home, is yet another plus.

What are the downsides to working for yourself, if any, and how do you overcome them?

As I work from home, distractions can be a downside: phone calls, knocks on the door, noisy offspring, demanding pets … these can make it difficult to concentrate. Earplugs are a must!

How do you go about promoting your business/finding clients?

While I was still on my training course I looked into the best ways of marketing my business: I took inspiration from the way that others in the same profession went about this, and made contact with other proofreaders and copy-editors, through joining the Society for Proofreaders and Editors (SfEP) and forums, such as The freelance community is such a friendly, generous one and people are often more than happy to share useful information. I also read lots and lots of books about all aspects of becoming a freelance. My initial campaign involved building a website,; creating a social media presence on several sites (including LinkedIn and Twitter); contacting publishers (speculative phone calls, followed by emails); and, of course, joining Find a Proofreader – a very wise move! I have been pretty busy, so my marketing tactics since then have mainly involved expanding on the above.

What is your most treasured work-related possession?

Until recently, I would have said my lovely, trusty and essential laptop (I’m saying that, in case it’s listening!) but … my new A2-sized whiteboard is a close second. Some of my colleagues recommended buying one – and they were not wrong. It charts my aims for each week and makes me feel very, very organised.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working with words?

Spending time with my family and friends; enjoying books, films, music, and walks. If I had more time, I would work on researching my family history, which is something I started some time ago, but haven’t made much progress with recently.

What’s your favourite book?

In terms of fiction, there are just too many wonderful books to choose from, although ‘Pure’ by Andrew Miller and ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd are favourites from the last year or so, and if I had an all-time top ten, I’m sure they would be in it. My favourite non-fiction book is ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’.

Have you got any advice for aspiring freelancers?

I am still at a reasonably early stage in my freelance career, but this advice is based on my experience so far:

  • go for it!
  • believe in yourself and your abilities;
  • be ready to learn – and to keep learning;
  • be focussed, flexible and forward-thinking, when it comes to finding work;
  • get to know other freelance professionals in your field, as it’s always good to have colleagues to talk to whether socially, or for practical support;
  • there might be some setbacks along the way, but don’t be put off by them (in fact, try to learn from them);
  • … oh, and you might want to buy some earplugs. :)

Sarah Nisbet, Inkshed EditorialSarah Nisbet is a freelance proofreader and copy-editor based in Littlehampton, West Sussex, and her business is called Inkshed Editorial. For more information on Sarah’s services, please visit her website or click here to view her Find a Proofreader listing.

17/03/2014 |

How to write an effective CV – some top tips (a guest post by Robert P Ginger)


Curriculum vitaeBecause many of us are often asked to proofread CVs, I thought it might be useful to make some general points about how they should be written. Armed with this knowledge, you can go beyond basic corrections and offer advice to your client about improving his or her CV.

Before discovering my true vocation as a proofreader, I was a job hopper, meandering between various dull 9-to-5 drudgeries. One benefit of my patchwork quilt of an employment record is that I’ve had a lot of practice at applying for jobs, and a good deal of success at securing interviews by submitting an effective CV.

Also, at a couple of the companies that I actually stayed with for a while, I was involved in recruitment, checking the CVs of applicants. This means I’ve seen the process from both sides. I know how to write CVs that work, and what recruiters want to see when they read them, so here are a few of my recommendations.

When you apply for any job, try to put yourself in the position of the recruiter, and imagine what his or her ideal candidate would be like. Then use words and information to suggest that you are that ideal candidate. This means you shouldn’t simply submit the same CV every time you apply for a vacancy. Instead, keep a basic “template” CV and adjust it to suit each job application, giving extra prominence to anything that makes you appear especially well-suited to the post, and cutting out anything that’s irrelevant. Talking of which, my golden rule for writing a CV is “keep it relevant”. Don’t bother to mention any skills or experiences that aren’t applicable to the vacancy.

Let’s look at some fundamental “dos and don’ts”.

  • Design your CV attractively but simply, so that it’s easy to read. Put spaces between the sections. If you need to include any kind of list (e.g. your duties in a previous job), use bullet points rather than full sentences. A CV that is cramped or is typed in a font that’s too small is likely to be binned without even being read. But…
  • Don’t make it any longer than two pages. One page is best, if you can fit everything in without making it appear squashed. If you find it hard to comply with both these first two pieces of advice, your CV is too long. Remember, cut out anything irrelevant.
  • Don’t be flashy. Avoid graphics, colours, boxes, fancy bullet points or any other silly “showing off” effects. And don’t include your photo, unless you’re applying for a job as an actor or model! Doing any of these things will suggest that your CV is so poor that you’re having to use gimmicks to compensate. A powerful CV will impress by its words alone.
  • Use “power words”. These are positive verbs that make your skills sound more impressive. Examples include: achieved, coordinated, created, designed, developed, managed, negotiated… there are literally hundreds of them. If you Google “CV power words”, the 18 million results should give you plenty more.
  • Personalise your CV. Using bland clichés such as “I am a team player” or “I have good communication skills” will do nothing to distinguish you from all the other sheep who also quote them. Back them up with personal examples showing how you’ve communicated well, or how you worked successfully in a team.
  • Don’t submit your CV without an accompanying cover letter.

Of course, there’s a great deal more to writing a successful CV than the above points, but following them will give you a good start. If you or any of your clients need a comprehensive guide, then try my book Your CV: A Plain-speaking Guide. Yes, I’m afraid it’s time to confess that this entire piece has been a shameless plug for my own publication, details of which can be found at:

Well, we proofreaders all have to supplement our meagre incomes however we can.

CaptureRobert Ginger is a professional proofreader and copy-editor and lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire. He is the author of Your CV: A Plain-speaking Guide which is available from Amazon. You can contact Robert via his website,

10/12/2013 |

Freelancer of the Month October 2013 – Laura Donkersley


Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your business? 

I set up Editorial Stand in early 2011 as a full service proofreading and copy-editing company working with all types of writers, from businesses to self-publishing authors. I specialise in fantasy and science fiction novels, but I have a wide range of experience including fiction, non-fiction, press releases, autobiographies, poetry and academic papers. Editorial Stand also offers its services to publishing houses and my company is successfully making a name for itself slowly but surely as a high quality provider of editorial services.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelance proofreader and copy-editor.

My journey into the publishing world has been rather unconventional compared with many colleagues of mine. Having always had a passion for language, I studied French literature and language at university, which gave me a great grounding in linguistics and insights into highly acclaimed literature. When I was approaching graduation I sat myself down and examined what I wanted to do as a career. I have always loved reading and have collected books, mostly fantasy fiction, my entire life, so coupled with my passion for linguistics it felt natural that my first thought would be the publishing industry and the idea of bringing books to print. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing a book in a shop, knowing I directly helped bring it to publication.

I thought about going down the traditional route of applying for unpaid internship after internship after internship and going to countless interviews with the thousands of other recent graduates who were applying for the same temporary position, but the newspapers were plastered with headlines declaring the number of unemployed graduates was at an all time high. As I knew my long-term ambition was to have my own editing business I thought to myself why not skip straight to the part I want and so after graduating I set about getting qualified as a proofreader and copy-editor and I haven’t looked back since.

What do you enjoy most about running your own business?

The freedom and control it provides me, first and foremost. I am my own boss and it is a wonderful feeling knowing that the success of the company is a direct result of my determination and will to succeed and to promote high-quality literature and reading experiences. I get to choose which work I really believe in and want to help promote, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to know an author personally and helping them to improve their manuscript and get it to their audience. Working from home each day has also enabled me to have two beautiful dogs who both bring me lots of joy.

What are the downsides to working for yourself, if any, and how do you overcome them?

I think the hardest side of being a freelancer is the unreliability of work. Sometimes I can be working flat out every minute of every day and other times I have gone several days without a single word to edit. This has become less and less of an issue as the company has built up, but that worry that it could all go away one day is definitely ever present and provides me with the drive to provide only ever the highest quality results with each individual client. I also find that it is very hard to switch off and completely forget about work. Every minute I have free could be a minute that I am promoting Editorial Stand and finding new clients. Weekends aren’t really weekends anymore as I may be working flat out on a pressing client deadline and even when not working I am still marketing myself on Twitter or replying to emails at ten o’clock on a Saturday night. Sometimes you do just need to take a step back and recognise that you need some down time completely away from anything even remotely work-related.

The other thing that is challenging is making sure I get out of the house sometimes as it is so easy to get absorbed in your work and realise that actually you haven’t left the house all day. Again my two dogs are great for nagging me to get out into the fresh air and take them for a walk.

How do you go about promoting your business/finding clients? 

I use a fair amount of social media to promote Editorial Stand, so I have a Twitter account (@EditorialStand), I have a Facebook business page and I am on LinkedIn. Obviously I have the website, but the other key way of promoting myself and finding new clients is the Editorial Stand blog; I do enjoy writing articles on a range of topics from language discussions to new book releases, so the blog is not entirely for promotional purposes, although that is, of course, a bonus. I am also in directories such as Find a Proofreader and, having just qualified as a full member, I have just taken out an entry in the directory for the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP); although it’s not online just yet, it will soon be. It’s also extremely satisfying that I get many repeat clients who are publishing their next novel as well as referrals from previously satisfied clients.

Have any particular developments occurred within your business sector that have affected the way you work or the way in which you are taking your business forward?

Originally I started out with the idea of working with traditional publishing houses in mind; however, over the years, it has become more and more evident that the self-publishing market is developing itself rapidly and becoming more and more prevalent within the publishing and book industry. I enjoy working on an individual basis with self-publishing authors and I think it is a fantastic development that more first-time authors are making it to print and do not have to pray that their book will be approved by an agent or publishing house first. It is becoming easier for people to get their writing out there, although the pitfalls are still there and it is with the help of professionals like myself that self-publishing authors can get their book to print without making these devastating mistakes.

What is your most treasured work-related possession?

Perhaps not strictly used for work, however, I absolutely adore the bookshelf that sits above my desk. The only books on it are books that I have edited. It is really inspiring to look up and see in front of you the books that you directly helped to get published. I love flicking through them occasionally and it is also very satisfying to see the number of books on it increase as time goes by.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working with words?

I often find myself absorbed in language, even when I’m not working – whether absorbing myself reading or writing my own novel. It has been interesting to get to grips with separating me the editor from me the writer. They really are two very different talents and it is with a very different mindset from editing that I write in. I have found more and more that having that separate writer side of me has also helped me to connect better with my editing clients, as I can truly see their manuscript through their eyes. Their manuscript is precious to them and whenever I am going through and editing their writing, I try to keep in mind how I will feel when I send my manuscript off to an editor and it comes back covered in Track Changes. I do hope to be a published author myself one day and will of course send it to an editor, instead of editing it myself, as we all know that you are always too close to your own writing to be able to effectively and objectively edit it.

When I am completely away from words, I thoroughly enjoy baking and playing the piano; two hobbies that require absolute concentration and focus and so are two of the few activities in the world that actually manage to take my mind off my work.

What’s your favourite book?

My favourite book, ever since I was ten, has always been The Lord of the Rings. I have a beautiful, leather-bound edition with gold-coloured ink decoration on the cover that got handed down to me by my father many years ago. It truly is my pride and joy and takes prime position on one of my bookshelves. I also adore Robin Hobb’s writing, in particular The Farseer Trilogy.

Of all the books I have edited, my favourite to date has to be Phil Dickinson’s New Fire and the sequel to that book should be coming out early 2014.

Have you got any advice for aspiring freelancers?

Don’t give up; it will take a long time to get a steady client base. Be prepared to spend countless hours marketing yourself and networking, and countless other hours doubting every decision you make. Perseverance really is the key to freelancing in the publishing industry.

Laura Donkersley of Editorial StandLaura Donkersley is a London-based freelance proofreader and copy-editor. Her company is called Editorial Stand. For more information on Laura’s services, please visit her website or click here to view her Find a Proofreader listing.


30/10/2013 |
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