Freelancer of the Month July 2013 – Louise Bolotin0
Hi, Louise! Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your business?
I’m a journalist by trade and I still write, although not so much these days. Mostly I edit – everything from books to websites and brochures – and I provide services from basic on-screen proofreading to structural editing and consultation. My specialist subjects are finance of all sorts and adult material – I’m increasingly working for self-publishers, especially those writing erotica, alongside a core clientele of financial institutions and traditional publishers.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.
I moved into sub-editing some 12 years into my journalism career. During a long spell abroad I ended up working as an in-house editor at a major investment bank, but even before that I found I was being asked more and more to edit other people’s work written in English because of being a native speaker and having the skills. After I returned to the UK I decided to freelance instead of searching for an elusive staff job. It was necessity rather than choice but turned out to be a good decision.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
Where to start? I like having total control over my own time. I’m not a slave to the daily commute, I can take time off when I want (even if it’s just a half-day), I don’t need to ask a boss for time off to go to the dentist or wait in for a plumber, the postie knows I work from home so I’m always in for parcels… And on top of all that, I get to choose what work I want to take on.
What are the downsides to working for yourself, if any, and how do you overcome them?
Like a lot of freelances, I’m prone to cabin fever. Working alone at home means that if you’re not careful you can go for days without having proper human contact. I’ve tried working once in a while at a co-working space but I find it too distracting and I can’t play music, which I like to stream in the background. I get round the solitude by ensuring I have a good social life – for me this is essential as I also live alone and don’t want to become a total hermit. I also hate doing the books but, luckily, I have a very understanding accountant who works magic with the piles of receipts I send her.
What do you listen to when working?
I used to have Radio 4 on a lot but I find speech radio very distracting when working as I want to listen to the discussions. I switched to Radio 2 for a while, for the music, but the chatter in between songs drove me crazy. Spotify is my lifesaver – I have a paid subscription and have built up a huge library of playlists, which I select from depending what I’m working on and the mood I’m in. I listen to a huge amount of reggae, especially dub instrumentals, plus classical and film scores, rock and pop.
What is your most treasured work-related possession?
PerfectIt has bailed me out a few times when working on books of 600-plus pages! No matter how meticulous you are and how many items you log on a style sheet, it can still be easy to miss something. It’s very good at flagging up any inconsistencies. I always run PerfectIt at the end of working on a document, whatever the size, and recently I’ve started running it before an edit too as it can help you make styling decisions universally before you tackle things manually.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working with words?
Cooking. I love cooking – it’s how I relax. I’ve been working on writing a recipe book over the last two years – it’s currently in blog form, but I’m now whipping it into shape as a book in my spare moments. My obsession with food extends to reading cookbooks for fun (I don’t necessarily cook from them) as well as eating and drinking outside the home. When I take proper time off, I eat, walk and explore my way round European cities and, if possible, hike too.
What’s your favourite book?
For work, it’s unquestionably my much-thumbed copy of NODWE (New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors), which is looking distinctly shabby these days from the daily abuse I subject it to. Otherwise, it has to be Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. It’s a socially conscious literary novel up there with Dickens and Gaskell but more accessible, shot through with humour and grace, and underscores why I’m both self-employed and a proud member of my trade union!
Have you got any advice for aspiring freelancers?
Never, ever approach established freelances out of the blue and ask for information on “agencies, contacts or training”. It’s all out there on the internet and a little time spent on a search engine will dig up a lot of info on training, for starters. I get very cross when aspiring freelances ask me this and expect it to be handed on a plate to them – it tells me they are not prepared to put the work in to get started. And asking for contacts is a no-no – that’s my client list they’re asking for!
Louise Bolotin is a freelance editor based in Manchester. She specialises in editing financial and adult material of all sorts for publishers, companies and individuals. She runs PlainText Editorial (plaintext.co.uk) and her listing on Find a Proofreader is findaproofreader.com/listings/plaintext/.