Four years of self-employment!

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!

If you’re a client and you’ve got this far down the geekery, you’re probably my kind of person – do check out my services and get in touch if you think I can be of help! You can see some of my testimonials and portfolio here.

The best way to edit.


Three years!

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!

Christmas tree on dark background with golden lights and tinsel

Covid-19 and our work

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.


The post I really wanted to make

It’s about time I came clean. I hate writing blog posts.

There. I said it. I thought long and hard and I … oh, who am I kidding. I didn’t have to think hard at all to figure out that honesty is the best policy. And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if I feel like that, there must be a whole load more people out there who feel the same. Can I come and join your tribe?

Writing blog posts is something ‘they’ say you must do in order to help your site’s SEO, boost your visibility, and attract lots of new potential customers to your site. By ‘they’, I mean marketing how-to guides and other successful editors. And they have a point. If no one knows my site is here, how are they going to find my awesome skills?

So I want writers to come to my site. Writers who need an editor and proofreader. Obviously. And what do writers want to read about? Well, how to be a better/quicker/more productive/published/successful writer, of course. So I try and write posts with that in mind. Posts that will help writers.

There’s one important flaw in this approach. Writing isn’t my best skill. I’m an editor. Now, that’s not to say that my writing is bad or that I’ve got no useful advice to offer – but it does mean that I often feel as though I’m winging it or cribbing information from elsewhere. And, while I know the world is big enough to take more than one ‘how to beat writer’s block’ article and more than one piece on ‘how to write dialogue’ … I don’t just want to rehash the same old things.

So I’ve decided to take a new approach. An honest approach. I’ve touched on this before with posts about my searches and my SfEP professional membership status, but now I want to grasp it with both hands and own it. I don’t mean posting about my personal life, soap opera style … but I’m going to be myself, and that might mean writing about things that aren’t writing, and maybe even things that aren’t editing. In this way I hope to post more often, and give you stuff to read that comes from the heart, rather than from a marketing expert’s idea of what will help my site rankings.

So here we have an irrelevant but sexy picture of a Triumph motorbike. Not connected with writing, but hey, your main character has got to have some mode of transport, right? How about it?

Triumph Tiger motorbike
An irrelevant Triumph.
Personal Reading

Children’s books: my favourites & recommendations

During the last few weeks I’ve probably handled more hard copy books than I usually pick up in a year. As I try to get my baby interested in books I remember all the books I read and loved as a child. Here are some of my favourites.

Reading to a baby from an ABC book
Trying to get my baby interested in reading.

The Ladybird ABC book – the first book I had as a child, and the book that (alongside my parents, of course!) taught me to read. I’m told I was a ridiculously early reader (I don’t remember learning), and my mother credits this book, where you can clearly see not only the letter, but the letter within the word and the picture all on the same spread. It didn’t take me long to make the connection between the big ‘a’ and the smaller ‘a’ within the word ‘apple’.

The Magic Faraway Tree
Just look at those illustrations! I wish I could photograph every page.

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. Blyton gets dissed a lot but I loved Dick and Fanny – not to mention Bessie and Joe. My view might be slightly coloured by the gorgeous illustrations in this edition, though. They are lush, and perfectly complement the trippy stories about a tree with its topmost branches touching a rotating carousel of magical lands, all with different, weird and wonderful themes. The tree’s inhabitants include a man with the moon for a head and a man who wears a suit made out of saucepans. What’s not to love?

Noddy and Big-Ears
Noddy and Big-Ears go to the seaside.

At the risk of wallowing in a Blyton nostalgia-fest I was also a big fan of Little Noddy. I didn’t notice the racist golliwogs at the time; I was just captivated by Noddy and his red and yellow car. The image above is from Noddy Goes to the Seaside.

The Flower Fairies
Be careful you don’t misspell ‘Poppy’. We don’t want a ‘Poopy’ fairy. We get enough poop in other aspects of life.

Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies series is just delightful, and another series which is made by its illustrations. The charming poems also teach facts about each of the flowers; facts which are made more memorable by being cloaked in whimsical verse. Perfect if you don’t want girlie pinkified fairies for your daughter (some of the ‘flower fairies’ are male, and none of them sparkle) but don’t want to completely abandon magic.

Paddington Bear
I can vouch for the fact that marmalade chunks make excellent glue.

He’s very topical at the moment thanks to the recent film (and a forthcoming one in 2017), but I’ve been a fan of Paddington Bear since childhood. The dry, straight-faced humour appeals to children and adults alike, and Michael Bond also pulls off a slapstick line of physical comedy which is very hard to do in writing. And who wouldn’t love to be able to do Paddington’s trademark hard stare?

Jennings, White Fang, the Shadow in the North
Books for slightly older readers.

When she’s older, I hope my daughter will, like me, come to love Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books, White Fang by Jack London and The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman. The world of an all-boys boarding school might be dated, but it has a beguiling innocence and some laugh-out-loud moments. Throughout the decades, kids haven’t fundamentally changed and they have always got up to ‘mischief’. Philip Pullman needs no introduction … White Fang is not only a firm favourite but also a gateway to the harder-hitting, more adult Tales of the Klondike, which I read as a teenager and would heartily recommend. It taught me one thing – never light your fire underneath a snow-covered tree. The snow will melt and drop on your fire, smothering it and leaving you to die in the frozen wastes. You’re welcome.

Jinny, The Machine-Gunners and Harry Potter
Spot the wild card.

It might be an obvious, some would say cheesy, choice, but I’ve jumped enthusiastically on the Harry Potter bandwagon and can’t wait to read J. K. Rowling’s famous series to my daughter. Robert Westall’s The Machine-Gunners is also a classic these days, I believe (that makes me feel old!) and I love his down-to-earth style. There are quite a few lesser-known Westall books for my daughter to discover, including The Wind Eye and his collection of short horror stories for adults. My ‘wild card’ is the Jinny series of horse stories by Patricia Leitch, which are as far from middle class pony club romps as it’s possible to get and still involve horses. When I was younger I wanted to be the feisty, red-haired Jinny and to ride as fearlessly as she did. Each book (there are twelve) has a horse-related storyline together with a more meaningful facet to the plot where our heroine discovers more about herself and gradually becomes a less selfish and more respectful person who cares about the world around her.

There you go – my pick of books for young and older children. Some of these are obvious, but I hope some of you benefit from the more obscure recommendations. And if my daughter doesn’t enjoy any of these, I hope I won’t be too disappointed but will continue to nurture a love of reading through books that she does like!


Oh baby baby …

I try to avoid posting anything personal on here, but I have to proffer an excuse for my recent silence on the blogging front. I gave birth to my daughter in early August, so I haven’t had much work-related excitement to inspire any posts.

reusable nappies on washing line
My idea of a productive day during the last six weeks

From Monday I’ll be back at the grindstone and ‘open for business’ again (proofreading and copy-editing business, that is!). One client has asked for a critique, so I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into that.

I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to enjoy a bedtime story, but I did resist the temptation to call her Paige after my line of work.

Authors Christmas Help For Writers Personal

Happy New Year: 2016

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is a great year for you.

I’m really excited about 2016. There are going to be fantastic new developments at Help For Writers! In the next few days I’ll finally be in a position to reveal all. (Sorry for the vagueblogging in the meantime, but I couldn’t wait to greet the New Year anyway!)

If, as a writer, there are any services you’d like to see that you haven’t been able to locate anywhere, or some way that existing self-publishing services aren’t fully meeting your needs, please drop me a line because I’d love to hear about ways we might be able to help make your life easier.

On a personal note, I’ve been in India for the last three weeks. As per all good cybersecurity advice I decided not to broadcast my absence on my blog in case hordes of rampaging looters descended on my house to strip it bare. (I needn’t have worried.) I spent a few days in Mumbai, then five days touring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and back to Delhi again) and finally a week soaking up the sun in Kerala. This was my holiday of a lifetime and I feel extremely lucky to have seen some wonderful sights and met a bunch of super-friendly people. I didn’t take many photos but here’s a gratuitous Taj Mahal shot.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal