Freelancer of the Month October 2013 – Laura Donkersley0
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.