Today is my 4-year work anniversary! So … some stats.
I *just* pipped 2019/20 to the post with the number of words I worked on, coming in at 2,797,535. My number of clients was also at an all-time high, just beating last year’s 28 with 29! Of these, 14 were repeat clients – the same as almost every other year. However, the number of publishers I worked with rose from a steady but modest 1 to a much-improved 4.
The types of jobs (i.e. copyediting, dev editing, proofreading, etc.) I did remained about average – but I introduced a new category for ‘line editing’ into which some of my would-be copyediting numbers were syphoned this year. If these two categories are mashed together, that would make 69% of my work copyediting in terms of ‘number of projects in that category’.
When it comes to income source, though, copyediting is up on last year from 42% to 56% of my income, but it’s still less than the previous two years. Dev editing is down this year from 25% to 10% of my income, but this is comparable to 2021/22. Critiques and manuscript assessments, on the other hand, have risen from a steady 1-2% in previous years to 6% of my income this year.
For the first time, I’ve geeked up on the types of writing I’ve been working on – 63% of my projects were fiction, 19% non-fiction, and 3% were specified as memoir, 8% as academic and 6% as corporate.
Now for the self-care bit! My time spent working was the highest ever, coming in at 400 hours more than last year and 177 more than the year before (I wasn’t tracking it the first year). I also spent a whopping 85% of my time on actual billable work (rather than things like admin, CPD, marketing, IT, etc.), topping a steady rise from 73% to 77% to 81% in previous years. Despite this, turnover and profit weren’t as high as in 2020/21 (my top year so far) – and this resulted in my lowest hourly rate since starting out in business.
So although I’m pleased with the way the year has gone overall, this has definitely provided me with some food for thought! I started the year determined to work even harder and fit in as many projects as possible – but now it looks like I really need to focus on working smarter as well!
Today marks three years since I went self-employed! And I’m still alive. (I do have over seven years of editing experience – but only three of them as a sole trader.) I can’t resist this opportunity to geek out over my stats – and use them as a learning experience.
Over the last year, I’ve edited fewer words and done fewer jobs than in either of the previous two years – ‘only’ just over two million words and 44 jobs. Was this down to choice or chance? Realistically, probably a combination of the two. Everyone has been tightening their belts this year, particularly in winter, but on the flip side I embarked on a major gardening project earlier in the year, so I had to carve out some time for that.
In fact, over the course of the year I worked fewer hours in total than I did the previous year, so the drop in word count and job count makes perfect sense. As you might expect from that, my turnover and profit were both also down from my Year 2 figures but still up compared to Year 1.
While it might seem disheartening at first for me to see those figures drop, I actually found it quite encouraging. I was hoping I’d get some useful information from this exercise that I could use to help me do better next year. It appears that I could increase my income relatively easily by the simple method of doing more work! Considering that I love my job, that doesn’t sound like a bad plan at all!
Also … I survived! So even though there might be a modicum of disappointment in my heart on looking at the paperwork … I made it. I’m here standing in front of next year. So, while I might not be about to impress anyone with my bank balance, I did enough. Enough to keep body and soul together. Enough to still love my job and have my mental health.
It’s true that the last few months haven’t been so easy when it comes to finding customers – I can’t say I blame anyone for deciding that paying the gas bill is more important than getting their book edited – but my number of clients has stayed pretty stable. At 24 in total, it’s down 4 on Year 2 but the same as Year 1. Out of those 24, 12 were repeat clients, so I’m super happy that people like my work enough to come back!
Like my first year in business, 19 of my clients were individuals this year (down from 24 in Year 2), but the number of agencies I work with has doubled from 2 to 4. This is good news for me, because these agencies typically supply a number of projects every year. My new contacts have been a delight to work with, and so have their authors!
One of my most dramatic stats is the increase in the proportion of my income from developmental editing. Between Year 1 and Year 2 this rose slightly from 4% to 9%, but last year it took a massive jump to 25%. I love dev editing, so this makes total sense, but it’s still good to see that my training is starting to pay off and my CPD in the meantime hasn’t been wasted!
I’ve also added no fewer than five new strings to my bow. Alongside the Big Four of dev editing, copyediting, proofreading, and critiques/manuscript assessments, I’ve also added columns for sample checking (ad hoc work for a specific agency), line editing (which I already did before but listed under the copyediting umbrella), beta reading, writing, and … artwork! (I’ve only waited twenty years after graduation to start earning money from artwork …)
None of these new services are huge earners yet, but I’m happy to diversify and bring my skills with words (and pen/brush) to bear on a wider range of projects for people on all kinds of budgets.
Although my total time spent working was down, the proportion of it spent on actual editing or proofreading (or manuscript assessing or beta reading, etc.) – as opposed to doing admin, finances, marketing, networking, CPD, and so on – was up from 77% in Year 2 to 81% this year, which I think is pretty good. It’s my favourite part of the job, after all!
Doing this exercise has been totally nerdy and spreadsheety, but I love it. I definitely feel energised for the year ahead! I started the year thinking that perhaps taking my foot off the gas slightly might be good for my mental health, but now I’m not so sure. I’m excited by the prospect of working more and harder and, hopefully, better. I get a real feeling of satisfaction from completing a project or securing a new client. So here’s to 2023 and my fourth independent year in business!
It will be twenty years this June since I graduated from Loughborough University in Fine Art (Painting). I had spent the previous four years happily creating artworks, but I knew (or thought I knew) that I didn’t want a career as an artist. I didn’t relish the idea of having to draw or paint whatever the client wanted, no matter how unappealing. However, it’s with a big smile on my face that I now announce that I’ve recently completed my first paid-for artworks in over twenty years!
When I was nineteen, I was paid to do an oil painting for my dad’s workplace when they moved into new premises. It was a 6′ x 2′ depiction of silhouettes related to the film industry, black against a dramatically lit, colourful background. I have only the vaguest memory of it, and I’m pretty sure that if I ever saw it again, I’d cringe and notice all kinds of horrible faults. I recently learned that it’s still there, in the foyer, and I must admit, I’m a little bit proud that someone liked it enough to keep it there instead of commissioning something better and gleefully burning it.
I like to think my work has improved a tiny bit in the last twenty years, even though I’ve gone through long stretches without practice. I was delighted when an author whose work I edited commissioned me to do some artwork for him. First came a family tree. Then he asked me to do a piece for the cover. It didn’t end up on the cover because – well, it wasn’t in keeping with the theme of the book. An impressionistic view of three figures floating down a river in a canoe was the author’s vision, but at the same time it didn’t reflect the genre. Nevertheless, I was really glad to do this piece because it challenged me in different ways. It wasn’t a topic I’d have chosen – I know nothing about canoes and have no experience of the landscapes or geography that feature in the book – but it’s good to broaden your horizons and try new things.
I also discovered, right from square one with the family tree, that I don’t mind being told what to do nearly as much as I thought I would. Far from feeling threatened or insulted by suggestions that I change aspects of my work, I enjoyed getting feedback and building up a clearer picture of the client’s vision. At first it was a little embarrassing sending sketches I knew to be rough or substandard, but it was exciting to see the responses they generated and the ideas that sprang out of them. ‘Try bringing the viewpoint down a bit’ or ‘the angle to the left’, the client would suggest, or ‘can we make this a bit bigger?’ I’d make sure that we nailed the composition before I got stuck into colours and brushstrokes and texture, and I had a lot of fun with the process. Here is the result:
To my delight, the author was pleased enough with my work to commission another painting for their novella, even though the previous one didn’t end up on the cover. This took me to another level in terms of research – Canadian trains of the 1980s definitely aren’t one of my specialist areas. I even emailed a train buff whose site I found online! (Thank you, John MacDonald of YourRailwayPictures.com, by the way, for your useful technical input and for the use of some of your pictures as reference material!)
It’s amazing how different railway stations are in different countries. As a Brit, I’ve very rarely seen a platform without a good drop off the edge to the line, and we tend to either have a brick station building or nothing – no wooden or corrugated iron huts here, as far as I know. Here is the fruit of my research:
I’m pleased with the way this has gone, and I’m learning new things about my tools of the trade all the time. Both of these were done on ProCreate Pocket for iPhone, and I’m hoping to progress to the full version on an iPad soon, so watch this space!
If you have ever thought that you’d like to have someone illustrate either your book cover or just a scene from your book or short story, please get in touch – I’ve discovered that I love working on commissions!
I did it! I survived my first year as a freelancer! I’ve been editing and proofreading for longer than that, but always as an employee, so the venture into self-employment was new to me. And I have to say that it … didn’t go as I expected. Out of all the challenges I expected to face, a global pandemic was not on my radar. I have been lucky to work from home and – so far – stay healthy. And in honour of the occasion, I’ve treated myself to some number-crunching …
In the past year, I have edited and proofread 2,794,378 words. I’ve undertaken 65 jobs across 24 different clients, 14 of whom have come back for repeat work. My clients were …
… 19 individuals, 3 agencies, 1 publisher and 1 business.
My jobs were …
… 52% copyediting, 43% proofreading and 5% developmental editing …
… but my income came from …
… 72% copyediting, 23% proofreading, 4% dev editing and 1% critique.
And out of the time I spent working …
… 73% was spent actually editing and proofreading. The other 27% was spent on non-billable work, which included looking for work, marketing and promotion, networking with authors and fellow editors, research and fact-checking, updating my website, accounting, IT-related admin, formatting, training and other professional development, correspondence with clients and potential clients, and producing quotes and samples. I’m sure there’s more that I’ve forgotten!
So what has this year brought for me? I managed to keep one of my resolutions, which was to undertake some developmental editing training and secure some clients in that area. I took Sophie Playle’s/Liminal Pages’ celebrated course in Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory, which was incredibly useful and a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to expanding this area of my practice in 2021, especially in the areas of fantasy, urban fantasy, sci fi, horror, and romance.
Things also took an unexpected turn when a client asked me whether I’d consider doing an illustration and cover design for their book. I originally trained in art and have continued to dabble as a hobby over the last twenty years – as you can see here – but illustration is a different skill! I was open about my lack of experience, but they decided to hire me anyway, and I had great fun working on an illustrated family tree to add to their book. I’m now working on the cover, which I’m incredibly excited about and very grateful to my lovely client for giving me this opportunity!
I’m ending this year feeling both very lucky and very sad on behalf of those who have been hit harder by Covid-19 than I have. I’m grateful to be able to continue working and providing for myself and my family. Considering how many people aren’t in such a fortunate position this year through no fault of their own, though, it doesn’t feel right to be too celebratory. I hope 2021 brings better luck to everyone.
It’s finally here – I’m offering developmental editing as well as copyediting and proofreading! I’ve been excited about this service for some time now, but thanks to the chaos of 2020 I’ve only just got around to launching it.
I’d like to thank those authors who have been been my guinea pigs as I’ve been learning about developmental editing and building up my skills in this area. I can’t name you all, but I am more grateful than I can say! I hope I’ve done your books and stories justice.
I’m also benefiting from Sophie Playle’s wonderful course in Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory. There is a reason her courses are legendary!
Because I’m still at the beginning of my journey as a developmental editor and as a gesture of goodwill in difficult times and the run-up to Christmas, I’m offering developmental editing at a much-reduced rate to the next client to book in. Get in touch for your free quote!
My preferred genres for developmental editing are fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, YA, romance, horror, crime and literary fiction.
At the moment I’m only offering this service for fiction, but I’m also keen to expand my skills in the non-fiction arena, so if you’re interested in being another of my guinea pigs, please do get in touch!
What a difference a few weeks make. In my last post I was celebrating SfEP becoming CIEP … now the UK is in virtual lockdown, people are dying, and I don’t know what to say but feel I should say something. This (Covid-19) is too big to be ignored.
My heart goes out to the NHS staff – and those who support them – working so hard to save people’s health, and to other key workers keeping people fed and essential services running. A lot of them get forgotten – mechanics keeping doctors’ cars running, communications engineers keeping our phone and internet working, sewage plant workers making sure we have clean water, people who work with the dead protecting our hygiene and dignity – and they are at risk and have to live with the fear of catching the virus.
I’m a long way from the front line. I worked from home anyway; I am one of the lucky ones. But no one is unaffected. As so many people get put on reduced wages or lose their jobs, many people have reduced disposable income, and everyone is focusing on what is important – which, let’s face it, is not usually editing unless you are a publisher. Several of my freelance colleagues have lost some or indeed all of their contracts or upcoming work. Do I worry about where my next projects are coming from? Of course I do. Promoting my services to anyone seems like the height of insensitivity at this time.
The stress is getting to everyone, including those of us who have it comparatively easy.
I want to do what I can to help writers and publishers in these difficult and unprecedented times, but I don’t know how to go about it without being an arse. Look, if you’re writing … if you want help … a critique, dev editing, copyediting, proofreading, anything of that nature … and you’re struggling either financially or mentally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll find some way of helping you out. I can’t promise to do everything free, because I need to eat too, but I also want to be humane and find a way of doing my job (which I love for its own sake) in a way that helps and uplifts people. Now more than ever we really are part of a global community, all facing the same challenge, and all I can do is try to spread a bit of love and light by sharing the skills that I have. Editing is something I can do from lockdown, so … here I am.
Stay safe, everyone, as safe as you can. We are all called to be heroes now.
I’m excited about this change. The SfEP was already highly regarded, but as the CIEP it should wield even more clout as the national professional body for editors and proofreaders. Since I joined in October 2015, I’ve been impressed by the resources and support available. The team behind the change has worked really hard to make this happen, so congratulations to them!
I am proud to be a professional member, and I hope to upgrade to Advanced Professional Member later this year – fingers crossed!
It’s time to take stock of the year and plan for 2020, and
this is particularly important for me as I only moved into freelancing ten days
ago. What went well for me this year and what are my plans for next year?
It’s easy to scramble along from one day to the next
thinking you’re doing ‘okay’ but not feeling as if you’re achieving anything
noteworthy. That’s typical of me – if I don’t have my head down working like a
demon, I’m panicking that I’ll never work again! Whether I’m looking for work
or actually doing the work, I’m always motivated, but analysing what I’ve done
isn’t something that I carve out a lot of time for. So when I did this a few
days ago, I was pleasantly surprised.
How did the year go?
Over the last year (2019) I’ve done thirty-nine projects for
eight new clients and ten repeat ones. (I count publishers, agencies, packagers
and ‘middlepeople’ as single clients rather than counting every author I worked
with through those channels.) I’m pretty happy with that! Next year I’d like to
find more new clients than I did this year, but of course repeat clients are
always good – a testament to the fact that they were pleased with my work!
Twenty-six of my projects were books, six were essays, four
were ‘other’ (websites, emails, blurbs, instruction manuals, newsletters,
interviews and biographies), two were short stories and one was a writing
project – my first piece of work of that nature. Bite-size corporate projects like
proofreading emails or web pages slot in nicely around other work, but books
are still my first love. Out of those, fifteen were fiction and eleven were
Apart from my activity on social media and various forums,
the only real promotion I did was a full-page advert in Writers’ Forum magazine and an article that I was kindly invited to
write for the July/August
edition of Editing Matters, the SfEP’s trade
publication. (I was surprised to find out that I’ve actually published six blog
posts myself, not including this one, but five of them were posted within the
first four months of the year!)
One great way to round off the year was with a lovely
testimonial that was volunteered by one of the non-fiction authors I worked
with. She mentioned my ‘versatility, keen eye, outstanding professional
communication, efficiency and verve’.
I usually have to ask clients for testimonials – with my usual British
reticence, and not nearly as often as I should – but they serve as a fantastic
pick-me-up when they land in my inbox.
Plans for next year
I’m excited about the prospect of spreading my wings,
especially when it comes to promotion, CPD and networking.
All too often, time spent on marketing or networking can
feel like time wasted if you don’t see an immediate return, but now that I’m
only accountable to myself, I hope to look into various other options for spreading
the word about who I am and what I do. Corporate clients are a notoriously hard
nut to crack, and I still find myself drawn to books by self-publishing
authors, but I’m not going to close my mind or eyes to any potential openings
in the world of business.
I’m particularly looking forward to doing more face-to-face
networking with my fellow editors, who are always amazingly supportive and
I’m also keen to set some of my budget aside for training
courses and CPD in 2020. I’m very close to meeting the requirements to upgrade
to Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP – which I’d be over the moon to
achieve – but I do need a little more training to get there, and I have my eye
on a couple of courses that would help me hone my skills and benefit my
One major avenue I want to pursue in 2020 is developmental
editing. I’ve already started some informal development in this area, and
ideally I’d like to complete some formal training in this area too. I also have
a reading list of dev editing books that are highly recommended by my
This might also be the year when I finally get some printed
materials done. I’m in the process of having a logo designed, and it can’t hurt
to get a few business cards and flyers. I’ve felt the lack of them a few times
over the last year, and they are particularly useful for corporate clients, who
are best reached via face-to-face networking rather than online.
As for blogging, I deprioritised it in the latter half of
2019 and I don’t think my bottom line suffered as a result – it freed up my
time to do other things – so I’m not sure yet whether I’ll simply continue to
be bad at it, whether I’ll make more of an effort, or whether I’ll feel more
naturally inclined to blog now that I’m a free agent, so to speak.
I’m excited about 2020. My successes this year have given me
confidence that I can continue to do well, and I can’t wait to improve my
skills and pass those improvements on to my existing clients and, hopefully, a
whole swath of new ones! I’m sure I have what it takes to be a good dev editor,
and I’m looking forward to crystallising that with some training and a few
juicy projects for my portfolio.
I feel like I may have been on the edge of burnout for a while, but now, writing this, I don’t feel as though the cure is going to consist of working less. There is no working less on my horizon, only working more, but for me it’s working differently that is the key. I feel energised, not dismayed, by the prospect of all the extra things I want to fit in next year! Despite the variety of work in my portfolio, I’ve never had a project I disliked or was reluctant to get stuck into. I’ve enjoyed every piece of work I’ve had – no exaggeration – and spent every day glad that I get to do this for a living. But I also feel that working on other things – CPD, marketing and networking – will freshen up my brain and help me to work faster and more efficiently across the board. Let’s get started!
I’d like to wish all my wonderful clients and editorial colleagues a very happy Christmas. If you celebrate it, have a great time; if not, do enjoy the public holiday if there is one where you live!
I’ve been implementing some publisher feedback on a psychology book I’m working on. I also replied to an enquiry about some possible work. (This potential client lives in India – not everyone shuts up shop over Christmas!) However, now it’s time to tackle the tidying … and perhaps eat a mince pie and some baklava and some chocolate and …
Today is my last day working for Help For Writers Ltd. Tomorrow will be my first day as a ‘true freelancer’. In material terms, nothing much will change – certainly not overnight. I’ll carry on editing and proofreading just like I did before. But it does feel like closing a novel that has kept me gripped for years – only to be overtaken by that swooping feeling of the excitement of starting a new one.
I have to thank my colleagues at HFW for believing in me and supporting me to embark on my editing career. When I started working at the company over four years ago I didn’t realise that this was going to be my niche, but now I’m looking forward to focusing on editing and proofreading, leaving the rest of the capable staff there to explore and develop other aspects of the business more fully. If you have any needs relating to ebook conversion, distribution or cover design, drop them a line!
My plans for freelance life are modest so far – short-term goals include new business cards and flyers – but the most significant thing I aim to do is to branch out into developmental editing. I’ve touched on it in my most recent project, and I’m excited about the prospect of undertaking further training and CPD in that area. So if you have a project that you think might need dev editing and you’re brave enough to let me cut my teeth on it, I just might have a tasty discount for you!
I feel very lucky to have a job that I’m excited about every day of the week. A recent client voluntarily sent me a lovely testimonial that made me feel warm inside. She mentioned ‘energy’ and ‘verve’, qualities that I’d never given much thought to before, but I’m glad they come across to my clients, because I definitely feel the same drive each time I start a new project. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!