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Hazel Bird project manages, copy-edits and proofreads sometimes dizzying quantities of interesting words for clients ranging from global academic and trade publishers to government policy units to publishers of creative non-fiction. Her focus is on developing dynamic collaborations with her clients in order to help make their goals a reality. Her biggest project to date was a twelve-volume international encyclopedia with over a thousand contributors. She lives in the stunning countryside of the Wye Valley in Herefordshire, UK, and spends her free time trying to corral her ancestors into some sort of order and attempting to offset a severe doughnut preoccupation with heavy lifting.
ABOUT THE BLOG
The Wordstitch Blog brings together my experience working in publishing on both sides of the client–freelancer relationship (often simultaneously). It aims to foster great working relationships, from a belief that the best text products (of whatever kind) emerge out of genuine collaboration and excellent communication.
- We are already surviving
- Psychological safety in editorial work
- Disengage, re-engage: 13 tips for proofreading text you’ve already copy-edited
- Difficult feedback: should you send it and, if so, how?
- When editorial project managers expect too much
- How to use bubble charts to get a snapshot of your clients’ value to your business
- How to close an editorial project effectively
- Proofreading pitfalls: Nine tips to improve your proofreading strategy
Category Archives: Professional development
Working as a freelancer means inhabiting a strange world of paradoxes:
We must be solid and grounded in our professional self-sufficiency but fluid in responding to our clients’ needs.
We must strive for stability but embrace the inevitability of change – both self-imposed and thrust upon us.
We must invest in building and refining our skillset even when we’re wondering where our next paying job will come from.
We must maintain scrupulous standards of professional accountability to our clients and suppliers even as we become lifelong friends with some of those same people.
We must work in competition with our fellow freelancers while nurturing each other and our joint community for the good of us all.
We must be experts without ever forgetting how little we know.
We must connect in our isolation.
In short, we must be flexible and adaptable. Always, onwards, adapting.
To an extent, this is an existential drive, almost evolutionary.… read the rest >>
HBR defines psychological safety as allowing for ‘moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off’.
In the professional sphere, it’s about trust, openness and confidence that we will receive a reasonable and proportionate response when we raise questions or concerns with our colleagues.
As a project manager, it’s something I try to establish in all my projects. And it’s a concept that I think we need more of in the editorial world, particularly in client–freelancer relationships, where the success of a project often hinges on speedily establishing a collaborative working relationship from scratch.
Why is psychological safety important in editorial work?
Let’s consider an example of how problems can arise on an editorial project when somebody feels they can’t ask a question.
… read the rest >>
A proofreader has been engaged to proofread an academic book and liaise with the author to collate the author’s corrections with their own.
If you’re like me, you keep meticulous records of all of your projects, including hours worked, hourly rates, speed of work and so on. It’s easy to quickly rack up a lot of data, but data is no good if it’s not put to practical use. I do various ongoing and yearly analyses of my data, and one of those analyses involves creating a bubble chart to give me a snapshot of my clients’ value to me, both monetarily (the volume of work and how much I get paid for it) and in terms of how much I like working with each client. This gives me a visually intuitive way of seeing the cold, hard facts of the value of my clients to my business.
Here’s what I put into my chart:
- client name
- overall income for each client
- average hourly rate for each client
- a subjective rating of how much I enjoy working with the client.
I recently read a helpful post (with handy infographic) on how to close a project over at the A Girl’s Guide to Project Management blog, run by Elizabeth Harrin. Although I get a lot out of reading project management blogs, the tips don’t always straightforwardly translate into the kind of work I do, which usually involves delivering an encyclopedia or book project for publication rather than conducting the sort of change-management process more typically associated with project management outside publishing.
However, the more I looked at Harrin’s seven steps, the more I thought of ways they fit in with closing editorial projects. Let’s take each of the steps in turn.
1 and 2 Handover to users (training and support)
Although I don’t have to train anybody in what to do next with my project deliverables (my publisher clients are, unsurprisingly, very familiar with how to print and digitally publish a book!),… read the rest >>
Not long ago, I met up with three old university friends who are all employed by (or have been employed by) large public-sector organisations. Their work environments (the support and demands of a corporate structure; the necessity of wearing shoes with rigid soles) couldn’t be more different from mine (the freedom to improve or damage my business unchecked by rules set by others; an office six metres from my bed). Yet I always learn things from our work-related chats, whether in the form of direct tips to apply to my business or reflections that give me an altered viewpoint on how I exist as a small business owner. I’d like to share two of those reflections with you.
Next to money, feedback is the most valuable commodity we get from our clients
Whether through direct reporting, receipt of career mentoring, performance evaluations or 360-degree reviews, my employed friends receive a vast amount more feedback on their work than I do as a self-employed person.… read the rest >>
I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to three other blogs this year. This is a roundup of those posts and also serves to introduce my rewritten and redesigned website, now at a new home at www.wordstitcheditorial.com. I’d love to know what you think of the new design – please comment and let me know!
Macros and wildcards: essentials or added extras?
Back in April, I wrote a post for the Indian Copyeditors Forum introducing macros and wildcards. I suggested some reasons to give them a go and some ways to start getting acquainted with them. Here’s an extract:
… read the rest >>
On certain editing forums, few topics are more likely to inspire passionate debate than the use of macros and wildcards. For many years they have gradually been seeping into our editing practices, and they are now essentials for some editors while for others they remain irrelevant complications – perhaps even distractions from the ‘true’ business of editing: engaging with a text.
I am a huge advocate of comprehensive and well-organised style sheets. When copy-editing and proofreading, they help me to clearly summarise the style decisions I’ve made and communicate them to my client. And, in my project management work, they are indispensable tools for corralling copy-editors on multi-editor projects and for keeping styles consistent throughout copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, collating and indexing. I’ve previously written about how editors should never fail to provide a proper style sheet (see point 4).
I’ve recently been experimenting with a new technique in my own style sheets: the use of the combo box (also known as a dropdown list). These allow inputting of a set of pre-defined options, one of which is later chosen by clicking on the list and selecting an item.
So how can combo boxes be used in style sheets? Well, I find that the process of compiling a style sheet can be quite time consuming.… read the rest >>
But, however good your editorial skills, they may not be able to save you from losing a client to certain common etiquette pitfalls. I’ve collected seven of these below. These examples particularly apply to relationships with traditional project managers (PMs) or production editors. However, they can apply to relationships with business or self-publisher clients too.
Avoid these ‘sins’ to lessen your chances of irritating your client into dropping you as a supplier.
1. Bad filing
Unhelpfully named documentation can be a hindrance and gives a poor impression of your professionalism. When communicating with your PM or other members of the project team, try to pick email subjects and file names that will be helpful to everyone. For example:
- Never title an email ‘Index’, ‘Queries’, ‘Complete’, ‘Help please!’
Editorial Pick ’n’ Mix is an eclectic weekly roundup of five tips or news items relevant to publishing, copy-editing and proofreading. The premise is that only a few minutes of semi-targeted reading every day of the (working) week will inevitably expand your editorial brain with new perspectives, ideas, resources and skills. Take a look at my recent post on professionalism – the inspiration for Editorial Pick ’n’ Mix – for more tips on how to boost that all-important asset.
Monday: New editions of Oxford’s trio of style essentials released
New Hart’s Rules, the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors and the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press, are now out in their second editions (confusingly, these are now the second of the ‘new’ editions). OUP are trumpeting that the new-new editions have been ‘updated for the twenty-first century’ in collaboration with professional copy-editors and proofreaders.… read the rest >>