Freelancer of the Month January 2013 – Stephanie Hitch0
Welcome to the new Freelancer of the Month feature. This month we caught up with Stephanie Hitch, a legal proofreading specialist and owner of www.legalproofreader.co.uk.
Hi Steph. Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your business?
I trained as a general proofreader but my specialist area is legal proofreading. I practised as a solicitor for over ten years before training as a proofreader. I own www.legalproofreader.co.uk, a specialist legal proofreading service for businesses, translators and law students.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.
I graduated in Law and French in 1992 and went on to qualify and practise as a solicitor in private law firms in the South East. I took a break from law in 2000 to take my CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) qualification and taught English as a foreign language abroad and in the UK until 2003. I then returned to law. While on maternity leave in 2007 with my first child I decided to change career and become a proofreader. I completed the Basic Proofreading by Distance Learning with the Publishing Training Centre in 2009 and went freelance thereafter.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides to working for yourself, if any, and how do you overcome them?
Without a doubt, the best things are the complete autonomy and freedom that you have as a self-employed homeworker. The downsides are a tendency to work longer hours than you would if you were self-employed as it is very hard to get away from ‘the office’. You also have to get used to your earnings fluctuating from month to month. There are also health aspects – when you are sat in your warm office it can be hard to motivate yourself to get active or do exercise, so you have to try to eat healthily and get out each day. But for me the pros of homeworking outweigh the cons.
Have you got any advice for aspiring freelancers?
The first few years as a freelance proofreader can be hard. It’s very competitive nowadays; you have to sell yourself and be flexible in terms of work and working hours. It helps to have a particular area in which you specialise. It can also be a lonely profession so I would advise would-be freelancers to connect with other freelancers.
How do you go about promoting your business/finding clients?
I have my website, www.legalproofreader.co.uk, and I have Facebook and LinkedIn pages as well as listings on FreeIndex and, of course, Find a Proofreader. I always try to go the extra mile for clients so that they recommend me to their business contacts, fellow students, etc.
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?
I think that the growth of social media in the past couple of years has changed the way businesses are targeting and reaching their potential audience. My aim this year is to increase my knowledge and use of social media.
What is your most treasured work-related possession?
I would have to say all of my reference books – my hardback dictionaries (general and legal ones), New Hart’s Rules, Butcher’s Copy-editing and various grammar books. I frequently use online language resources (particularly as modern language is continually evolving and published works can’t always keep pace), but there’s nothing like leafing through a book and finding the answer.
What do you enjoy reading when you’re not working with words?
After proofreading all day, I tend to go for something ‘light’. I am currently reading Derren Brown’s Tricks of the Mind.
What’s your favourite book?
The book that really blew me away the first time I read it was Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. There have been many film versions, but the book is infinitely more intricate and the pace really builds as the main character exacts his revenge on each person who wronged him.
Stephanie Hitch is a freelance proofreader based in Hastings, UK. She specialises in legal proofreading and runs www.legalproofreader.co.uk.