An American Editor

December 14, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Tackling Editorial Learning Anxiety (or Embracing Change Rather Than Resisting It) — Part II

by Louise Harnby

In this two-part series, I consider how resistance to change can stop us from learning new skills or testing new methods to make our editorial businesses more successful.

In Part I, I discussed “learning anxiety” and how it can stop us from embracing change. I introduced three ideas for how to tackle anxiety: planning the change so that it’s considered and systematic; redefining “failure” as “lessons learned”; and doing a cost-to-benefit analysis.

In Part II, I present a personal case study of how I dealt with anxiety about offering a new customer-engagement service with regard to quoting. I explain how I used a cost-to-benefit analysis to identify my concerns and come up with a solution that enabled me to move forward rather than rejecting change outright.

Case study

I recently carried out an exercise with regard to a new marketing technique. My colleagues Adrienne Montgomerie and Nick Jones were the inspiration for it. Nick’s Full Proof website includes a Get a Quote button and a page that details a range of rates per 1,000 words. Adrienne’s Right Angels and Polo Bears website has an Instant Estimate tab.

I love the customer-centric nature of these websites – when I’m considering buying something, I want to have a rough idea of what it’s going to cost, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that my customers are the same. Nick and Adrienne already provide this sense of immediacy and customer engagement, though in different ways. Up until recently, I’d resisted including such a device on my own website. I’d read a lot of opinions on the issue, most of it focusing on how one can’t offer a quotation unless one’s seen a sample of the work. That’s all well and good, but is it what the customer wants? Both Nick and Adrienne make it clear that their instant quotations are preliminary and nonbinding. I wanted to take this idea and run with it in my own way – provide a quick way for the customer to engage with me, a device that would give them a sense of immediacy. I wanted to be able to provide them with a ballpark price for proofreading that they could use to decide whether to continue the discussion. So I tackled the questions above, and the answers helped me to map out a solution that I could test.

What are the potential gains from the change?

  • Customers who previously passed me over because they wanted an immediate sense of what the cost would be might be more inclined to contact me.
  • In particular, I might be a more attractive prospect for self-publishing authors (a client group that I particularly enjoy working with) scouting for editorial assistance but who have a fixed budget in mind.
  • I’ve always provided detailed value-on quotations in the past (see “Value-on or money-off? Putting a price on your editorial services”, Proofreader’s Parlour, September 2013 http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog-the-proofreaders-parlour/value-on-or-money-off-putting-a-price-on-your-editorial-services) but these take time to produce, and if the price isn’t even in the customer’s ballpark I’ve invested a lot of time for no return. The quick-quote option would be an interesting alternative to test.

What will I potentially lose if I introduce a quick-quote function?

  • I’m always “on” – customers can contact me whenever they want and I’ll be committed to responding to them accordingly.
  • An instant quotation is all about the money, not about the value.
  • If I want to avoid placing prices on my website, I’ll need to have a device with me that enables me to calculate a price – this could be a challenge, as I want to offer different rates for different client groups, and I want to introduce economies of scale for larger word counts.

What will stay the same, even though I’ve made this change?

  • My proofreading website is still focused on providing comprehensive advice about the value I bring to the table. The customer comes through that medium and so will see this information.
  • My current client list is not affected.
  • I’m still offering a proofreading service.
  • I can still refuse the work after I’ve seen a sample if I don’t think I’m a good fit for the customer – the quote is preliminary with no obligation on either side. Critics can argue that no matter how much one protests that the quote is not binding, it gives the user a number around which to wrap their thinking. If my quote is £150 but then I see the manuscript and realize that the real quote needs to be £450, I have a major hill to climb to move the client off the £150 mark. However, I’d counter this as follows: I’m a proofreader. If the sample file arrives with me and it needs so much work that there is going to be a significant difference between the preliminary quote and the post-sample quote, the manuscript is not ready for me to work on and I’ll decline the work anyway.
  • I’m still in a position to turn down the work if it doesn’t fit in my schedule.

How will the changes make me feel once I’ve completed them?

  • I hope I’ll be glad that I’ve tried something new.
  • I’ll be excited to see what the results are.
  • It will give me even more confidence to embrace future ideas for change that I might have rejected in the past.
  • I’m in control of my website, so I’ll still feel secure in the knowledge that I can withdraw the quick-quote service instantly if I deem this to be necessary.

My solution was to offer a “Within 1 hour” service via text messaging to customers requiring a preliminary ballpark price. I require a few words of description, a deadline, and a word count. I commit to responding within 1 hour to any request that comes in prior to 10 p.m. GMT. I don’t want to have to carry around a tablet or laptop all the time because I won’t always have internet access, but my phone is always with me and I can always take calls or texts. I’ve set up a spreadsheet in the Excel app on my phone; this contains formulae that calculate the preliminary price based on different word-count ranges and client types. When a text comes through, I can place the word count into the spreadsheet; the fee is calculated automatically. I reply to the customer with the preliminary price and an invitation to continue the discussion, this time with a sample. At that point, I’ll be able to demonstrate the value I can offer.

I’ve placed this quick-quote service on a dedicated “Get a quote” page of my website. I’ve copied some of the client testimonials onto the page so that customers have a sense of the quality of service I offer.

On the same page I also offer a “Within 1 day” service via email. This provides customers with a confirmed quotation (rather than a preliminary ballpark figure) but requires them to furnish me with additional information and a sample of the work.

The quick-quotation tool has been up for a month at the time of writing, and early results are encouraging. I’ve had around 20 enquiries via text messaging, 4 of which have led to commissions to proofread works of self-published fiction. I also acquired a small, fast-turnaround job for a business client. I’ve turned down requests to proofread a business book and several theses, owing to the time frame.

I’m delighted that I decided to work out a creative solution to my earlier resistance. I’m even more delighted that the outcome has been positive. My fears about what I’d lose have been overshadowed by the decisions I made on how to manage the service: The time limit means that I’m not available 24/7; the fact that I’ve limited the service to text messaging means that I’m using a device that is always with me, so there’s no added inconvenience on that front; I’ve not been so inundated with requests that the service has felt intrusive; I can tweak the Excel spreadsheet at will; and if I decide to withdraw the service, I can update my website in an instant, even from my phone. I’ve also found a way to display the information in a way that provides social proof of the quality of service I offer.

Even more importantly, perhaps, carrying out this exercise has forced me to think more broadly how customer trust relates to pricing transparency, and about whether I want to increase my customer engagement further by being more explicit on my website about my pricing model – but that’s another test for another time! For the next few months, I’m going to focus on monitoring the “Within 1 hour” text-messaging service.

Taking professional responsibility

Resistance to change is a normal human emotion. However, we are business owners. We work for ourselves. There’s no one in the HR department to walk us through the changes we might need to make even though we feel nervous about them. Change is inevitable. The fact that it can be anxiety-inducing needs to be acknowledged. The key is to ensure that anxiety doesn’t get in the way of action. The decision I’ve made about my quick-quote service will not be something all my colleagues will agree with or want to implement. That’s fine – they have their businesses to run and I have mine. They make the decisions that are best for them while I make the decisions that are best for me.

Still feel reluctant to make a change, or learn something new? Break it down into smaller components so that it seems more manageable. View it as an opportunity for discovery rather than failure. And analyze it in terms of what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Whatever happens, you’ll know that Woody and Thomas would pat you on the back for it!

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

November 16, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Tackling Editorial Learning Anxiety (or Embracing Change Rather Than Resisting It) — Part I

by Louise Harnby

In this two-part series, I consider how resistance to change can stop us from learning new skills or testing new methods to make our editorial businesses more successful.

Part I looks at “learning anxiety” and how it can stop us from embracing change. It introduces three ideas for how to tackle our anxiety: planning the change so that it’s considered and systematic; redefining “failure” as “lessons learned”; and doing a cost-to-benefit analysis.

Part II presents a personal case study of how I dealt with anxiety about offering a new customer-engagement service with regard to quoting. I explain how I used a cost-to-benefit analysis to identify my concerns and come up with a solution that enabled me to move forward rather than rejecting change.

“I’m not trying that!”

Editors, like any other professionals, can fall into the trap of resisting change – for example, not trying out a new marketing strategy; claiming they have no need for business tools such as macros; or refusing to take on work that requires using a new platform, software package, or format. All of us have either said, or heard one of our colleagues say, “I don’t work in that way,” “That’s a bad idea,” “I don’t like the idea of that,” “That’s not the way I do things,” or “I just couldn’t bring myself to do that” at some point in our careers.

We work in a highly competitive, crowded, and international marketplace. We’re business owners, not hobbyists. That means our businesses have to earn us a living. Our market isn’t static – it’s always shifting. New software and digital tools are developed; new platforms on which we can make ourselves visible emerge and expand in terms of their importance; our clients ask us to work in ways that colleagues in the editorial field 40 years ago likely never anticipated; the types of clients for whom we are discoverable, and the ways in which they find us, are more varied than I expected when I set up my proofreading business only a decade ago.

All of that means that resisting change and failing to learn the new skills or to try new methods (whether technical, promotional, or practical) simply doesn’t make sense for today’s editorial business owner. If we refuse to change, we refuse to compete – and that’s a path to business failure.

So why do we resist change? According to psychologist Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, it can be a result of “learning anxiety” (Diane Coutu, “The Anxiety of Learning,” Harvard Business Review, March 2002). Says Schein:

“Learning anxiety comes from being afraid to try something new for fear that it will be too difficult, that we will look stupid in the attempt, or that we will have to part from old habits that have worked for us in the past. Learning something new can cast us as the deviant in the groups we belong to. It can threaten our self-esteem and, in extreme cases, even our identity.”

Back in 2002, Schein discussed the issue in relation to the challenges of organizational change and transformation, corporate culture, and leadership. But that quotation can apply just as well to the editorial solopreneur in 2015. We may be anxious about making a change for fear of not doing it well; equally, we might have heard or read negative opinions from our colleagues about using a particular technical tool, testing a new marketing effort, or changing to a new way of working — and that makes us wary of being seen publicly to be trying such things, lest they draw negative attention.

So how might we go about tackling learning anxiety so that we can embrace change rather than resisting it? There are several options:

  • Plan the change so that it’s considered and systematic
  • Redefine “failure” as “lessons learned”
  • Do a cost-to-benefit analysis

Plan the change so that it’s considered and systematic

If you think there are changes that should be made, or new skills learned, approach them as you would a business plan. By breaking the changes down into components, they will seem more manageable and less anxiety-inducing.

  • Write down the proposed changes (e.g., learning how to use macros; working with a new editorial tool; working in a new format, such as PDF using digital markup; studying a new editorial skill such as proofreading or localization; testing a new marketing technique or pricing model; making yourself visible to a new type of customer group such as self-publishers, students, or publishers).
  • Make a list of the objectives (e.g., increased productivity, new work stream, more diverse skill base to offer potential customers, enhanced customer engagement).
  • Make a note of how difficult you think the task(s) will be to learn and implement.
  • Make a note of how making the process of bringing in these changes makes you feel (e.g., reluctant, anxious).
  • Record the financial outlay required to make the changes to your business.
  • Consider the time frame in which you think you could make the changes. If there are several, you can stagger them so as not to overload yourself in terms of action and pressure.
  • Ask yourself whether you will need assistance to make the changes (e.g., a trainer or mentor) or whether you can implement them on your own.

Redefine “failure” as “lessons learned”

We must accept that change always brings risk. However well we plan change, however well it appears to meet our business objectives, the outcomes aren’t always what we hoped for or expected. The key here is to redefine those results in a positive light whereby “failure” becomes “lessons learned.” What if that cold-calling session to local businesses doesn’t bring in any immediate new clients? What if that training course in a particular software program won’t pay for itself because no clients will ask you for that skill? What if some people in your social media network think that the directory you’ve chosen to advertise in is disreputable and encourages a race to the bottom, rates-wise?

All those outcomes could occur; but it’s also possible – particularly if you’ve made thoughtful, informed decisions about what changes to test – that you might acquire a new lead, take on a piece of work using your software skills, or generate interest from your online colleagues about your marketing efforts. And even if you do end up in the worst-case scenario, who’s to say that the changes you’ve made won’t reap rewards farther down the line? Who’s to say that those colleagues who were disparaging about your efforts are correct in their assumptions?

Being prepared to try new things is how we learn. When the outcomes are not as expected, that’s not failure; that’s information on which we can make future decisions about what not to do, what needs tweaking, and what needs retrying. Not being prepared to learn and change in a competitive market is more likely to lead to failure that trying something new. If you don’t try, you don’t know.

There’s nothing wrong with trying something new, only to find that it didn’t work. Any normal human being trying to be creative when running their business is not going to get it right every time. And if things don’t go to plan, you’ll be in great company. Here’s Woody Allen: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” And here’s Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Do a cost-to-benefit analysis

If you’re nervous about making a particular change, do a cost-to-benefit analysis by considering the following questions:

  • What will I gain from the change?
  • What will I lose if I change the way I do things?
  • What will stay the same, even though I’ve changed things?
  • How will the changes make me feel once I’ve completed them?

Working through these questions can highlight benefits and challenges, and help you to think through ways to maximize the former and minimize the stress of the latter.

In Part II, I’ll discuss how I used a cost-to-benefit analysis to help me introduce a change to the way in which I invited customers to engage with me over pricing. I wanted to make things as easy and as quick as possible for my customers to ask me for a price, but in a way that wouldn’t ignore value. Up until this point, I’d let my anxiety stop me from testing a new method. However, by thinking about what I might gain, what I might lose, what would stay the same, and how any changes would make me feel, I was able to come up with a solution to test.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

October 12, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Creating Your Own Proofreading Stamps for PDF Mark-up

by Louise Harnby

In September 2015, I wrote about the benefit of being able to mark up PDF proof pages with stamps – digital versions of the symbols you would draw by hand on a traditional paper proof, usually for a publisher client (after all, not every client understands the standard proof-correction language employed in the publishing industry). I also promised to show readers how they can create their own stamps for onscreen work. This is the focus of this month’s essay.

A caveat

I’m a UK-based proofreader so I’ll be referring to the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) BS 5261C:2005 “Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction” throughout this essay (readers can buy a hard-copy list of these marks from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders). You may be used to seeing different symbols to indicate the same instructions. That’s because, depending on where you live, different standards may apply.

Compare, e.g., the Canadian Translation Bureau and BSI marks for a selection of instructions:

Comparison of Proofreader's Marks

Comparison of Proofreader’s Marks

What matters is not which proof-correction language you use, but what your client requires.

Recap of existing digital resources

If you want to use the BS 5261C:2005 proof-correction marks to annotate a PDF, visit “Roundup: PDF Proofreading Stamps (quick-access links)”. This provides the access links to a full set of downloadable PDF proofreading stamps in black, blue, and red, as well as the installation instructions.

US stamps files are available via the Copyediting-L site, under the Resources tab. Scroll down to “Diana Stirling’s (2008) editing marks for PDF documents (Zip documents)”.

Finally, search the Editing Tools section of Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base using the key words “PDF Editing Stamps”. This will bring up a number of other useful resources.

Why might I need to make my own stamps?

You might wish to create your own stamps for three reasons:

  1. The standard symbols required by your client might not be available for use on PDF. Use the resources in the above recap section in order to identify whether the mark-up language you want to work with is available digitally.
  2. The existing digital resources might include only the standard symbols developed by the original issuer (BSI, CMOS, CTB, etc.). However, I’ve sometimes found that I’m repeatedly making a particular amendment that isn’t covered by these standards. For instance, a nonnative-English-speaking author may use the word “is” when the author means “are” repeatedly in a file. Rather than annotating the PDF using the typewriter tool for the text, and using the “replace” symbol (slash mark) for each correction, it could be more efficient to create a new stamp that incorporates the text and slash mark. In the stamps files I provide, I’ve created several nonstandard symbols that I thought would be of benefit to users, including:
Author created nonstandard symbols

Author created nonstandard symbols

  1. For the sake of efficiency, you might wish to modify two existing standard digital marks. For example, I often need to change a hyphen to an en rule, and I have to stamp two symbols in the margin — the “en-rule” mark followed by the “replace” mark. I decided to create a single symbol that incorporates both of these marks (this symbol is now included in the digital stamps files that I make freely available on my blog).
Combining of two symbols into one

Combining of two symbols into one

When we modify standard stamps in this way, we save time — every second we save stamping only one symbol rather than two adds up to significant increases in productivity.

Creating your own stamps

There are two ways to go about creating your own customized stamps.

First method

You can using a snipping tool to copy a mark that you’ve drawn, typed, or found online. If I want to create a new stamp — for example, the “change is to are” instruction mentioned above — I can use my PDF editor’s comment-and-markup tools to type the word “are” and stamp a “replace” symbol after it. Then I simply click on my snipping tool, select “New,” and drag the cursor over the marks I’ve made. I then save this as a PNG, GIF, or JPEG file. The image is now available for upload into my PDF Editor’s stamps palette.

In Windows, the snipping tool looks like this:

Windows Snipping Tool

Windows Snipping Tool

Where your snipping tool is located will depend on which version of Windows you’re using. For Windows 8, click here; for Windows 7, click here.

The advantage of using a snipping tool is that it’s very efficient. I’ve pinned my onboard Windows snipping tool to the task bar at the bottom of my screen, so it’s always accessible. If you are using an operating system that doesn’t include a snipping tool, there are of alternatives available online.

There are disadvantages to using this method.

  • The definition of a snipped stamp is poor in comparison with a symbol drawn in a desktop publishing (DTP) or professional graphics program. The images usually look fuzzy, especially when enlarged.
  • It’s not possible to control the size of the snipped image, so the symbol may have to be resized every time it’s stamped in the margin, which wastes time.
  • Snipped stamps don’t have transparent backgrounds. This can be aesthetically unpleasing when you are stamping onto tinted pages. If you’ve created a stamp that needs to be placed in-text on a PDF, the lack of transparency will cause problems because you’ll be masking content that your client won’t want to be hidden.

Using the snipping tool to create stamps is recommended if you need a quick solution and you don’t think you’ll need to use the new symbol in future jobs. If you do think you’ll use your new symbol time and time again, it might be worth considering the second method.

Second method

You can use a DTP program such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXPress, or a graphics program like CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. I use MS Publisher because it’s included in my MS Office bundle. I’ve also found it quite easy to use — this is partly because it’s entry-level DTP software and partly because it’s an MS product so the functionality is quite similar to that of MS Word.

Once you’ve drawn your new symbol in your DTP program, you need to save the document as a PDF. This can usually be done very simply, using the “Save as” function. The image will then be ready for upload into your PDF editor’s stamps palette.

The disadvantage of using this method is that it requires greater investment in time in the short run. I’d only recommend it if you are creating a stamp that you think will be useful for many jobs to come.

The advantages of going down the DTP route are:

  • The finish of the stamp is more professional — the images are much sharper than the snipped versions.
  • You can draw multiple stamps in a single DTP document — just make sure that each image is drawn on a new page. Then you have to save one document as a PDF from which you’ll upload your new stamps.
  • You can control the size of the stamp. This may take some experimentation, but once you’ve drawn one proof-correction mark that you know produces a stamp that you can universally use on PDFs without having to resize, you can use this as a template for any future stamps you create.
  • You can control the transparency of the stamp. Users of my stamps files will know that some of my symbols don’t have fully transparent backgrounds. This is something I plan to rectify when I have time!

Using a DTP/graphics program is more time consuming but gives a more professional finish and is worth it if you think you’ll use the new symbol in multiple jobs.

Saving and installing your new stamps

If you have used the snipping tool to create a new GIF, JPEG, or PNG stamp, you can save it wherever you wish. I usually choose the Downloads folder. Then open your PDF editor and upload the stamp.

Installing snipped images to PDF-XChange

  • Open the PDF you wish to mark up
  • From Menu: Tools > Comment and Markup Tools > Show Stamps Palette
  • From Stamps Palette: Click on an existing Collection or create a new one (using the New button with a small green cross); select “From Image”
  • From a browser window: Locate your image from the folder in which you saved it, e.g., Downloads, and choose “Open”

Installing snipped images to Adobe Acrobat (v. 9)

  • Open the PDF you wish to mark up
  • Click on the stamp tool on the top ribbon
  • Select “Create Custom Stamp”
  • From browser window: Locate your image from the folder in which you saved it, e.g., Downloads. Note that in Acrobat you will need to choose the relevant file type in order for your symbol to show up. So if you saved your snipped image as a PNG, you’ll need to select this from the drop-down menu under file type; “Select”; “OK”
  • You can now name your stamp and assign it to a Category (you can use an existing Category or create a new one, e.g., Proofreading)

Installing snipped images to Adobe Reader (v. XI)

I haven’t found a way to import snipped stamps into Reader; the only option is to upload stamps that have been saved as a PDF, which isn’t possible with the Windows snipping tool at least. Given that PDF-XChange is still a very affordable editor, with outstanding functionality, I’d recommend trying it as an alternative to the free Adobe Reader and the rather more expensive Acrobat Professional.

Saving and installing DTP-created images

If you have used DTP software and saved your stamps in PDF format, you may need to save into a specific folder. The installation process is a little more complicated and will depend on the PDF editor you are using. If you are using PDF-XChange, Adobe Acrobat Professional, or Adobe Reader, carefully read the installation instructions I’ve provided on The Proofreader’s Parlour.

Related reading…

If you are new to PDF proofreading, you might find the following links of interest:

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

September 28, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Using the Stamping Tool for PDF Proofreading Mark-up

by Louise Harnby

When I first started my proofreading business, most of my work was on paper. Back in 2006, I was working primarily for publishers. These clients often wanted me to proofread against copy rather than blind. That meant that I was receiving large packages through the mail containing not only the final page proofs but also the galley proofs. Postage costs were huge, though my clients bore the cost; but I still had to factor in the time I spent either waiting for couriers or hopping into my car and driving to the post office so that I could return the galleys and marked-up proofs.

These days, things are different. Many of my publishers have embraced digital mark-up. I’m still required to work on final page proofs, and the clients still like me to annotate using UK-industry-standard mark-up language, but I can do it all onscreen — using my PDF editor’s commenting and mark-up tools — and the stamping tool. This saves the publisher money by eliminating postage costs and removing the need to print hundreds of pages of hard copy. It also saves me time, and, for those of us in the business of editorial freelancing, time is money.

Many editorial professionals have already embraced digital mark-up (either on PDF or in Word). Little of what follows may be news to them. Even though this essay is aimed at the novice who is in the process of investigating digital workflows and the tools available to assist them, experienced professionals, and professionals seeking to expand into proofreading, are likely to find the information valuable.

Two caveats

First, I’m a UK-based proofreader. If you’re from elsewhere, you might not recognize some of the symbols shown in this essay. That’s not because the symbols are wrong, but because there are differences in mark-up language between countries. The British Standards Institution has issued the BS 5261C:2005 “Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction,” (readers can buy a hard-copy list of these marks from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and that’s what my publisher clients expect to see. Your clients might have different expectations. In my October column of An American Editor, I’ll show you how to create your own digital proofreading stamps. This may be useful if you need proof-correction symbols that aren’t already available from the resources provided below, or if you need to a modified version of an existing symbol.

Second, stamping tools can be used in a number of different PDF editors. My own preference is PDF-XChange (from Tracker Software). Some of my colleagues prefer Tracker’s PDF Editor. Others, still, use Adobe Acrobat Professional or Adobe Reader. If you’re not sure what suits you best, take advantage of the various free trials on offer. For demonstration purposes, some of the screenshots in this essay are based on working in PDF-XChange. However, the underlying principles are the same.

What are proofreading stamps?

Proofreading stamps are simply digital versions of the symbols you would draw by hand on a paper proof. Below is a screenshot of some of the BS 5261C:2005 symbols that UK proofreaders use. (Double-clicking on images will enlarge them.)

Some of the symbols used by UK proofreaders

Some of the symbols used by UK proofreaders

The screenshot above shows a partial view of the PDF-XChange stamps palette. I’ve chosen to number the symbols, rather than naming them, because this allows me to change the order easily (see “Onscreen proofreading tips: Reorganizing your stamps palette in PDF-XChange”).

Each symbol in a palette can be selected and then stamped onto a PDF using the relevant tool, usually accessed through the PDF editor’s comment-and-mark-up toolbar.

Below, the stamping tool in PDF-XChange is circled:

The stamping tool in PDF-XChange

The stamping tool in PDF-XChange

Here’s what it looks like in Adobe Reader:

The stamping tool in Adobe Reader

The stamping tool in Adobe Reader

And, finally, below is a screenshot from Adobe Acrobat 9:

The stamping tool in Acrobat 9

The stamping tool in Acrobat 9

Which mark-up language should you use when stamping PDFs?

The answer is not actually as straightforward as one might hope! As far as I’m aware, my Irish and Australian colleagues find the BS 5261C:2005 symbols acceptable (feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken); in the UK, these BSI marks are absolutely considered standard. However, my Canadian colleague Adrienne Montgomerie, in her essay “The Secret Code of Proofreaders” (Copyediting, October 15, 2014), points out that for editorial professionals in parts of North America “[t]he challenge is always whether or not the designer will understand the marks. It’s hard to say that there are standard marks.” She goes on to illustrate the differences between the Canadian Translation Bureau’s Canadian Style guide marks and the marks preferred by the Chicago Manual of Style. The best advice I can give to novices is that they check with their national editorial society and their clients before embarking on this type of work.

Why use mark-up language on digital proofs?

Using stamps isn’t the only way to mark up a PDF, of course. Some of my colleagues’ clients prefer sole use of the commenting and mark-up tools embedded in their PDF editors. When I use the stamping tool, it’s because my client wants to see all the suggested corrections in the page-proof margin (just like with a hard-copy proofread) rather than in pop-ups (see the example later in this essay under “What does a stamped PDF proof look like?”). Ask your client what they prefer.

In “Are proof-correction marks redundant? Not even close!” (Proofreader’s Parlour, October 16, 2014) — an introductory guide to using proofreading mark-up symbols — I consider the issue of why these little hieroglyphics are useful. If you’re new to proofreading, you might like to read the essay in full. For the purposes of this essay, the key points can be summarized as follows:

  • If your client wants all the annotation in the margins of the page proofs, there’s very little room in which to work. Specialized mark-up language, even when working digitally, is an efficient way to tell the typesetter/designer what to do.
  • The ability to use professional mark-up language, when required to do so by a client, demonstrates professionalism. Some editorial societies’ codes of practice demand knowledge of standard mark-up language. See, e.g., The Australian standards for editing practice, 2nd ed. (2013); The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) Code of practice; and The Editors’ Association of Canada’s Professional Editorial Standards: “E. Standards for Proofreading
  • Stamping a symbol on a PDF, or drawing a symbol on paper, is quicker than writing out an instruction. Being able to mark up in this way can therefore increase efficiency and productivity. If you’re working for fixed fees, it’s a timesaver and money-earner.
  • If you don’t understand how to mark up using this specialist language, you’re marketable to fewer clients. It therefore makes good business sense to acquire the skills to mark up in this manner, both on paper and digitally.

Where can I find digital stamps?

If you want to use the BS 5261C:2005 proof-correction marks to annotate a PDF, you can find everything you need on my blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour, in the Stamps archive. In particular, “Roundup: PDF Proofreading Stamps (quick-access links)” provides the access links to a full set of downloadable PDF proofreading stamps and the installation instructions.

U.S. stamps files are available via the Copyediting-L site, under the Resources tab. Scroll down to “Diana Stirling’s (2008) editing marks for PDF documents (Zip documents)”.

Finally, search the Editing Tools section of Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base using the key words “PDF Editing Stamps.” This will bring up a number of useful resources that you might prefer to try.

Where can I learn onscreen mark-up?

If you’re already familiar with standard proof-correction marks, and have used them extensively on paper-based projects, you might well be able to teach yourself to mark up onscreen with stamps. That’s how I went about building my digital mark-up skillset. However, if you’re a novice or lack confidence, you might prefer more formal training that introduces you to using proof-correction language correctly and clearly (whether on paper or digitally).

In the UK, the SfEP and The Publishing Training Centre, to give just two examples, include onscreen mark-up as part of their distance-learning proofreading training. In June and July 2015, Adrienne Montgomerie ran webinar on “Editing on PDF” via the folks at the Editorial Bootcamp. You can still buy the five video-recorded sessions and the companion handouts and exercises here.

There is also some good, and free, online guidance on the Right Angels and Polo Bears blog under the Acrobat PDF archive. See also the Stamps and Working Onscreen archives on the Proofreader’s Parlour.

What does a stamped PDF proof look like?

A PDF that’s been marked up using proof-correction stamps looks just like its paper cousin – the only difference is that it’s in a file on your computer rather than in a pile on your desk. As you can see from the sample below, you can, of course, use the onboard tools. Here, I’ve added in a query for the author (using the Commenting function); if, however, my client had wanted all annotation to be viewable in the margins, I’d have created a separate query sheet to communicate my concern with the highlighted spelling issue.

Sample showing mark-up with stamps and comments

Sample showing mark-up with stamps and comments

Summing up

Proof-correction marks are not a thing of the past — far from it. Whether you are working on paper or onscreen, being able to offer this method of annotating a proof is a valuable business asset. It gives both you and your clients choices. There will be times when a client will prefer you to work on paper, or directly in Word. And there will be times when you work with clients who don’t know the meaning of proof-correction symbols, and will ask you instead to use a PDF editor’s onboard commenting and markup tools. But if you are going to be working with clients who want a traditional margin-based proofreading service (where all your annotations are made on the typeset page) but in a digital format, the ability to mark up using proofreading stamps will serve you well.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

August 17, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Testing for Successful Editorial Business Marketing

by Louise Harnby

  • “Is [directory name] worth advertising in?”
  • “Should I include a full portfolio of work on my website or just a selection of completed projects?”
  • “Are business cards necessary?”
  • “Should I include images on my CV/résumé?”
  • “Does cold calling work?”
  • “How much text should I include on my homepage?”
  • “Is it best to charge per hour or per 1,000 words? Or should I charge a flat fee?”

These questions, and many others, are frequently asked by new entrants to the field of editorial freelancing. They’re perfectly good questions and our colleagues usually have some excellent answers. There’s nothing wrong with asking more experienced professionals for advice on how to go about promoting one’s business; indeed, I’d recommend it as one tool for deepening one’s marketing knowledge and stimulating one’s creative juices.

However, it’s important to remember that “advice” is just that — guidance and recommendations for action; advice is not a rule of thumb that needs to be followed without consideration of our own individual business goals, target clients groups, and required income streams. We all, too, have our own voices — some people shine when promoting their businesses face to face or over the telephone; others make more of an impact using their written communication skills.

In brief, the marketing tools that work for me might not work as well for you, and vice versa. That’s why we need to incorporate testing into our marketing strategy. Testing involves experimenting with particular marketing activities over a fixed timescale, and evaluating the results.

Testing allows you to discover which promotional activities are effective for generating business leads in particular segments of the editorial market. The results may well match the experience of many of your colleagues, but don’t be surprised if they differ too.

Before you start …

Before you begin testing, it’s crucial to consider what you are trying to say and to whom. Spend some time reviewing your business plan so that you have the following in mind:

  • Your core skills and services
  • The types of client for whom you can provide solutions
  • The problems those clients need you to solve
  • The key selling points that will make you interesting to each client group

A fictive case study

Let’s return to just one of the questions that I posed at the beginning of this article and consider how testing offers a constructive approach to acquiring market knowledge that complements the advice gleaned from colleagues.

“Is [directory name] worth advertising in?”

Ash is a recently qualified proofreader. He’s considering advertising his services in his national professional association’s online editorial directory. The cost would be $300 per annum, which is a big chunk of his marketing budget. He asks 3,000 of his fellow association members whether the directory has proved successful for them. He receives 30 responses, which at first sight is useful, but when he reads the replies in full, the advice is mixed. One-third of the responders have had work from the directory, primarily from publishers. These publisher clients have offered repeat work over several years; and even though some considered the rates of pay to be on the low side, the advertisers have seen a positive return on their annual investment. A further third of responders tell Ash that they have had a few enquiries off the back of their advertisement, but the enquirers were one-off student clients who had small budgets; the advertisers struggled to break even on their investment. The remaining responders have had no work from the directory, though a few felt that their presence in the directory, with its backlink to their personal business website, had SEO benefits.

Despite the mixed responses, there is some really useful information to be gleaned. Ash considers the following:

  • Are publishers a target client group that he’s a good fit for?
  • Why did two-thirds of the responders receive little or no interest? Are their core client groups not using that particular directory to source editorial suppliers, or are these responders poorly communicating their ability to provide the required solutions?
  • What about the experiences of the 2,670 members that didn’t read the question or respond to it?

Ash reviews his business plan (including the skills he has, his career and educational background, the editorial training he’s carried out) and concludes that, although he has little experience, publishers are a good fit for his business model. The price tag of $300 is a little on the steep side for him, but he wants to acquire experience from publisher clients. Publishers seem like a core client group for the directory, though Ash is cognizant of the fact that he only has feedback from a small percentage of the society’s membership and he’s unsure whether their views are statistically significant.

He decides to test the effectiveness of the directory for 1 year. He constructs a listing that is designed specifically to appeal to the publisher client group. In 12 months’ time he will evaluate the results. If the listing has generated his required income-to-cost ratio, he can continue investing in this marketing activity, confident that his money is well spent. If the listing doesn’t generate the desired results he will have two choices: (a) test a reworked version of the advertisement or (b) abandon the directory and explore other methods of making himself discoverable to publisher clients.

Whatever the outcome, Ash’s test will provide him with evidence that he can use to make informed and confident decisions about how best to market his editorial business.

What should you test?

What you should test will depend on what you want to know. Here are three ideas that I’ve either already tested, am currently testing, or are on my to-do list — one is a small adjustment that costs no money and little time; the other two require a greater commitment:

  • TEST COMPLETE: I wanted to decrease the number of enquiries from students requiring proofreading work on Master’s dissertations and PhD theses. I no longer have the capacity to take on this work but I was spending at least 30 minutes each working day responding to these enquiries. That 30 minutes could be spent on marketing my business or doing paid work. I felt cautious about placing text on my website that clearly stated what I don’t do; it felt negative, and it cluttered up the page. I decided to test it over a 4-month period. If the number of student enquires didn’t decrease, I’d remove the text, since it was ineffective. The test was informative — I now only receive a one or two student queries a week, so I’ve left the text in place.
  • TEST IN PROGRESS: I wanted to know whether creating a profile on Reedsy would make me more discoverable to independent fiction authors. It costs nothing financially to generate a listing, although Reedsy takes a percentage of any income earned. Feedback within the UK and the international editorial communities has been mixed. In May 2015, I decided to carry out a test over a 12-month period so that I could evaluate the potential benefits for my own business. Early results have been positive — I picked up a high-value client within only a few weeks and completed several projects for him. The process was smooth and payment was timely. I’ve had a couple of bites from other potential clients since then, but neither resulted in being selected for proofreading work. In May 2016, I’ll review the experience and make a decision as to whether to continue to advertise on this platform.
  • TEST IN PIPELINE: If I create short audio streams of some of my written blog posts, will there be SEO benefits? Will the project generate sufficient additional high-value work opportunities to make the investment in time worthwhile?

Don’t mix things up

Take care when carrying out more than one test. Multiple tests on one marketing tool are problematic — it won’t be clear why any changes to response rates, either positive or negative, are occurring. For example, if I decided I wanted to find ways of increasing the speed at which I receive payment, I might consider tweaking my invoice as follows:

  • Highlighting the late-payment-penalty information in a yellow box
  • Offering a 5% discount for early-bird payment
  • Adding a thank-you message and an emoticon smiley

It’s crucial that I test each of these things separately; otherwise, 12 months down the line, I’ll have no idea which of these tactics is working (or not working). It could well be that the message and emoticon are just as effective as the 5% discount. Unless I identify this by carrying out the tests separately, I’m needlessly throwing money out of the window. Tests can, of course, be carried out separately but simultaneously by dividing similar clients into groups, with one tweak applied to each group. So, in the invoicing case, I might divide all my publisher clients into three groups and send out invoices with the late-penalty payment info highlighted to group A, a 5% discount for early-bird payment to group B, and a thank-you message and emoticon smiley to group C. Then I would track the results for each group.

Track the results

Make sure you track test results. If, for example, you’re mailing your CV to a large number of publishers, and testing different designs, or different wording in the accompanying cover letter, make a note of who was sent what. That way you’ll be able to identify whether a particular test is generating a higher response rate.

Codes can be a useful way of collating data if you’re want to work out where your best leads are coming from. Many editorial freelancers receive emails and phone calls from clients who don’t identify how they discovered them. Adding a distinct code to each call to action on your website’s Contact page, leaflet, business card, or advertisement helps you to distinguish the results of your marketing efforts. Likewise, if you are testing different pricing models with, say, students (e.g., a flat fee vs. $X per 1,000 words), you might issue them with different ordering codes if they decide to commission you (FF2015 for those offered a flat fee vs. PK2015 for those offered a price per 1,000 words); this would enable you to track which test generated the best likelihood of being hired.

Summing up

  • In my book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business, I include some words attributed to Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It’s a marvellous quotation — a great reminder that marketing is as much about learning as about being interesting and discoverable to potential clients. Testing is integral to marketing because it provides a considered framework in which we can look at what we don’t know and move to a position where we do know.
  • Don’t be frightened to test new ways of doing things; your colleagues can provide guidance but there is unlikely to be consensus, especially so given the number of voices in the online editorial community. What works for one person may not work for another. If some of your colleagues have found a particular promotional platform to be unfruitful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have the same experience; they may have mismanaged the way they communicated their message, or they may have a less-appealing skillset than you.
  • Testing allows you to make the decisions that are right for your business, rather than your colleagues’ business. Seek advice and use that guidance to help you through the thinking process. Ultimately, though, your decisions need to reflect your business goals, your target client groups, your skills and services, and your income requirements — no one else’s.
  • Set time frames for your tests and track the results.
  • Avoid confusion — carry out one test on one marketing tool at a time. Simultaneous testing is possible where the number of targets is large enough to apply different tests to groups of similar-type clients.
  • Most importantly, keep trying new methods. Even methods that are successful today can become unsuccessful tomorrow — innovation is as important in market testing as in any other endeavor.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

July 27, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Editorial-Business Marketing — The 4 Ps of Persuasion

by Louise Harnby

Promoting an editorial business has never been easier — and it’s never been harder. The internet provides us with access to a global marketplace; that means each of us is discoverable to a much greater number of clients. The internet also provides our clients with access to a global supply base; that means each of us has a greater number of competitors. So how do you stand out in a world where anyone can say they’re a proofreader, editor, indexer, or copywriter? How do you persuade your potential client that it would be worth their while to contact you and ask you for a quotation?

The issue is one of instilling trust. It’s about persuading the client — making them really believe — that you are who you say you are, and that you can do what you say you can do.

Trust versus truth

Trust and truth aren’t the same thing. Truth is defined by Oxford as “That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” Trust is belief in that reality. Without evidence, potential clients can’t know the truth of the phrase “I am a professional proofreader”. The best that I can hope for is that they believe it to be the truth — that they trust it to be the truth.

Instilling trust is therefore key when we are creating our marketing messages, whether online or in print. Potential clients, who will often be complete strangers to us, are more likely to get in contact if they believe the content of our websites, brochures, and résumés.

The 4 Ps to instill belief

There are tools we can use to persuade our potential clients that we are worthy of their trust — these tools are the 4 Ps: pictures, praise, portfolios, and professional practice.

  • Pictures: images of the editorial freelancer’s face
  • Praise: testimonials from previous satisfied clients
  • Portfolios: lists of completed projects (and/or client lists) that reflect the editorial freelancer’s experience and specialisms
  • Professional practice: this includes professional-society memberships, relevant training and continuing professional development (CPD), and related educational qualifications and career history

P1: Pictures (smiley ones!)

It’s not uncommon for the new entrant to the field of editorial freelancing field to be horrified by the idea of including a mugshot of themselves on their website, brochure, or résumé. “I’m not photogenic”; “I don’t have any nice photos of myself”; “I hate having my picture taken!”

So you’re shy! Me too. Maybe you don’t have the kind of face that will have Vogue clamoring to put you on its front cover. Me neither. Do it anyway. Your client isn’t trying to hire a new sociable best friend, nor do they need a supermodel; what your client needs is a proofreader (or editor/indexer/copywriter). They don’t just want any old proofreader, though. They want someone then can trust when they hand over the manuscript they sweated over. They want a real individual, not some anonymous person they’ve never met working for a huge, faceless corporate agency whose website, while attractive, looks somewhat impersonal. “I’ve wept over this novel, literally torn hairs from my scalp as I tackled draft after draft. I needed to feel that the person I was hiring gave a damn and would treat me and my book in a way that respected that,” said one self-publishing novelist who contacted me for a proofreading quotation some time back.

One key word from the above quote is “person.” She wanted to hire a person, not an agency, not a machine. The other key words are “gave a damn.” She wanted to feel that the person she hired would care.

Providing evidence that you are a real person, one who is prepared (for a fee) to invest professional commitment (care) in your client’s project, is difficult when you don’t have a face. If you don’t include a picture of your face on your website, for example, all you have is words. Even if they’re great words, they won’t show your smile. Smiles are powerful — when you smile at people, you make them feel good. “Genuine smiles (the ones that involve the muscles surrounding the eyes) induce positive feelings among those who are smiled at” (“Want to Increase Trust in Others? Just Smile,” G. Greengross, Psychology Today, 2015). And Samuele Centorrino et al. published a study early in 2015 suggesting “that smiles perceived as honest serve as a signal that has evolved to induce cooperation in situations requiring mutual trust” (“Honest signaling in trust interactions: smiles rated as genuine induce trust and signal higher earning opportunities,” S. Centorrino et al., Emotion & Human Behavior, 2015). In other words, smiles create belief. So when you complement the great words on your website with a picture of your smiling face, you appear more trustworthy to your client. Compare that with the impact your faceless competitor is making, and then get out your camera.

P2: Praise

If you feel embarrassed by the idea of asking satisfied clients to write a few words in praise of the work you’ve done for them, consider the following points that I address in Chapter 24 of Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business:

  • Testimonials provide social proof that you can do what you claim. They help the potential client to feel confident in putting their money where a previous client’s mouth is. According to Kissmetrics, “social proof is the marketing tactic for easing the minds of worried customers” (G. Ciotti, “7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts,” Kissmetrics).
  • It’s standard business practice, so it won’t come as a surprise to your client when you ask. And, anyway, in my experience clients are delighted to publicly go on record and help to spread the word when they’re happy with the help you’ve provided.

Social proof builds trust — again, we’re talking about providing evidence that enables a potential client to believe that you can deliver on your promises. Testimonials from third parties provide social proof because “people tend to believe what other people believe, especially people they respect. So if you can assemble a group of people, especially opinion leaders, who rave about you, you build credibility … that’s how we humans work” (A. Neitlich, “The Importance of Testimonials,” Sitepoint, 2004).

P3: Portfolio

The third piece of evidence that helps our clients to believe what we are saying is found in the portfolio. I’ve already written a 1,500-word article about the power of the portfolio here on An American Editor. Rather than repeating myself, I’d ask you to read it in full (The Proofreader’s Corner: The Power of the Portfolio, 2015).

In summary, I argue that the portfolio instills trust because it shows the potential client not just what I say I can do, but also what I have already done. As I contend in The Power of the Portfolio, “Anyone can set up an editorial business and write (or hire someone else to write) great copy that tells the customer what they want to hear. The portfolio takes things a step further, anchoring the message in a have-done practice-based, rather than could-do promise-based, framework.”

Your portfolio shows your client that you have already practiced what you preach. It builds confidence in your client’s vision of you as a supplier who can deliver on his or her promises. That’s a powerful emotion to induce in a client because you’ve already placed your professionalism ahead of money in the client’s mind before they’ve even contacted you.

P4: Professional practice

Finally, summarize those key points that reflect your professionalism — these are the things that show that proofreading or editing isn’t a hobby. Rather, you are a skilled professional who has relevant training and qualifications that make you fit for purpose and deserving of the fees you charge for what you bring to the table.

  • Educational and career backgrounds: Your target markets will determine which elements of professionalism you want to focus your customers’ attention on. I began my professional proofreading career by specializing in the social sciences. It was therefore important to communicate to clients that I was familiar with the language of the field. My degree in Political Science played a part in this; so did the fact that I’d worked for over a decade in an academic publishing house, marketing their politics, economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and research methods journals. If you want to instill trust in, for example, independent academics submitting to engineering journals, and you have an engineering background yourself, you’d be foolish not to take the opportunity to show them that you understand the discipline.
  • Editorial training: Have you completed professional editorial training that demonstrates competence in your field? If so, summarize it. Anyone can set up an editing or proofreading business, but not everyone will take the time to engage in training and other forms of continuing professional development. These things help to make you stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your willingness to learn to do the job to industry-recognized standards.
  • Memberships: If you used to be a member of the American Bar Association, and want to make yourself attractive to legal clients, you’ll have an advantage over me if you tell the client this! If you live in a country that has a national editorial society (in which membership requires meeting rigorous criteria), you might appear to be a better bet to some clients (such as publishers) than someone without such an affiliation. And scientific and medical clients are more likely to trust an editor with, for example, a BELS accreditation, than one without.

Finally, think, too, about what your target client groups want. Marketing materials aimed at publishers might focus on attributes that an independent fiction author isn’t interested in; for example, ability to use industry-recognized proof-correction markup language. And academic clients looking to publish in scholarly journals may be more trusting of an editor who claims she knows how to work with particular styles of referencing and citation.

Summing up

Successful marketing isn’t about truth, but about trust — telling the truth is important (though that’s beyond the scope of this article), but a nervous client who’s never worked with you before can’t possibly know whether your claims are truthful. Rather, we need to do things that will help our clients believe that our claims have truth to them. Pictures, praise, portfolios, and summaries of professional practice are four tools that will help build this belief.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

June 24, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Using StyleWriter4 Professional as a Proofreading Tool

by Louise Harnby

This month I’d like to share my experiences with StyleWriter4 Professional, a piece of software I purchased some months ago. I use this as a proofreading tool, though that’s not solely what the developers designed it for.

It complements the work I do with my eyes, increasing (1) the efficiency with which I work and (2) the quality of my output. Efficiency increases keep me happy because I can do certain tasks more quickly, thus improving my hourly rate; improvements in output quality keep my clients happy because they want as high a “hit” rate as possible.

What is StyleWriter4?

Essentially, StyleWriter4 is software that aims to help users with proofreading, editing, and plain-English writing. It comes in three versions:

  • Starter: the “cut-down” edition for those on a budget. It concentrates on plain-English proofreading and editing, searching the text, line by line, for long sentences, passive voice, and potential spelling errors. Style categories can be selected that enable the writer or editor to amend complex words, overwriting, abstract phrases or foreign words.
  • Standard: All the features of the Starter edition with additional functions to aid written communication, including identification of “high glue” and “high bog” sentences. (“High glue” sentences contain words that hold a sentence together, for example, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns. “High bog” sentences contain words that detract from a comfortable reading experience.) There are options for customization such as the ability to create categories for words or phrases that you want to ban or suggest.
  • Professional: All the features from Starter and Standard, plus the Editor’s List. This includes lists of all full words (alphabetically sorted), word frequency, spelling (unknown, questionable, or unusual words), bog (specialist words or words that may detract from readability), wordy (including passive verbs and word phrases), jargon (including abbreviations and jargon words), and pep (unusual or interesting words, and names).

A caveat on this proofreader’s usage

I bought StyleWriter4 because I wanted quick and easy access to the information in the Editor’s List – that, and nothing more. It’s important that I emphasize this straight away.

I’m not an editor, so I’m not in the business of worrying about passive voice, sentence length, overwriting, or overall style. Even though the Professional Edition enables me to use the tools to make amendments in relation to these issues, I’m not interested in them (because that’s not what my clients are paying me for) and I haven’t used the functions. I therefore can’t comment on the degree to which the software is effective in its claims to address these issues effectively.

So, what’s so great about the Editor’s List?

Why I use the Editor’s List

Sometimes we see what we want to see rather than what’s actually on the page. Being an experienced and professionally trained proofreader doesn’t make me immune to this problem. Rather, my experience and my professional training have made me alert to it.  That’s why I always generate a word list to flag up potential inconsistencies that my weary eyes might have passed over. Such a list allows me to make sure I check spelling errors (e.g., poofreader), consistency issues (e.g., Francois and François), context-dependent errors (e.g., behaviour and behavior). Not every issue will need to be attended to, but it will need to be checked. This is where the Editor’s List comes to the fore.

Running StyleWriter4 Professional on a Word document quickly and cleanly generates lists of words that I can use to spot potential problems I want to check, prior to reading the text line by line with my eyes. Generating word lists is all about spotting possible serious snags (e.g., inconsistent spelling of character or cited-author names) before the in-context proofreading starts. Looking through such lists gives me piece of mind and allows me, later, to focus my attention on context and layout.

Step-by-step summary

The following is a step-by-step summary of how I generate the information I need from the Editor’s List:

  1. Create a Word document. If I’ve been contracted to work directly in Word by my client, I’m good to go. If I have a PDF, I copy the text from the PDF proof and paste it into a Word file. (I choose not to use Acrobat’s built-in conversion tool because I’ve found it leads to problems with text flow, and I have to devote even more time to fixing these before I run any Word-based tools, such as macros. However, this is a personal choice.) I remove unnecessary word breaks from the document by using Word’s Find and Replace tool (find “-^p” then “- ^p” then “ -^p”); always leave the replace box blank. You may have a macro that does this for you more efficiently.
  2. Go to the Add-Ins tab and click on the StyleWriter icon. (Click on images to enlarge them.)
Word Menu with StyleWriter

Word Menu with StyleWriter

  1. Click on the arrow next to the Editor’s List icon: that’s the little picture of the chap wearing Men-in-Black shades!
StyleWriter Menu

StyleWriter Menu

  1. Select the list you want to look at. The lists I usually focus on are “All” (which includes the following separate lists of interest to me: “All words” and “Odds and ends”); and “Spelling” (which includes the following separate lists of interest to me: “Unknown words,” “Questionable words,” and “Unusual words”).

In the image below, I’ve highlighted the tabs of interest as they appear in the Editor’s List window, and the option at the bottom of the window to order the chosen word lists alphabetically or by frequency.

Editor's List Sample

Editor’s List Sample

I then scroll through the lists at my leisure, checking any problems I detect. In the image above, I’ve highlighted an inconsistent spelling issue that I’d need to check (behaviour/behaviour) in order to identify whether there is an error in the text. If I was working for a client directly in Word, I could use the “Trace in Text View” button highlighted at the bottom of the window. If I was working on hardcopy or PDF, I’d search for the problem in the PDF and then mark up on paper or on screen, as per the client’s wishes.

Why not use TextSTAT?

I used to use TextSTAT for creation of word lists for my proofreading work. I loved this software. I still love it! See “Revisiting an old favorite: TextSTAT, word lists, and the proofreader,” for more information about how I’ve used this tool in an almost identical way.

And TextSTAT is free, whereas StyleWriter4 Professional costs US$190 (or £123).

So, before buying, I decided to do a cost­-to-benefit analysis. If I was going to spend over a hundred quid on software, I needed to know how quickly I would get a return on my investment. I compared how long it took me to work through all the little bits and necessary to generate full-word and spelling lists using TextSTAT and StyleWriter4 Professional.

With StyleWriter, the process is a one-stop shop. I open and run the software in the Word file. I then click on Editor’s List and choose what I want to look at.

With TextSTAT, things are more fiddly. I have to upload the Word document, create full-word list, export the list into Excel, copy the Excel version into Word, alphabetize and check. Then I run a separate macro to generate possible list of potential spelling errors.

Using StyleWriter4 Professional saved me only five minutes for a 150,000-word file. However, when it comes to productivity in editorial work, marginal gains always count.

  • Cost: £123 (US$190)
  • Value of five minutes of my time based on my average hourly rate 2014/15 financial year = £3.34 (US$5.19) per job
  • On average, I do five large proofreading jobs a month = 5 × £3.34 (US$5.19) = £16.70 (US$25.95)
  • £123 (US$190)/£16.70 (US$25.95) = just over 7 months to pay for itself
  • I decided to buy StyleWriter4 Professional purely for the Editor’s List and haven’t regretted it. The choice for me was about the speed of the functionality, and its fit with my particular business model.

Considerations before you buy

Use the trial version before you buy. The website currently doesn’t indicate which version is available for download. It’s therefore worth emailing the developers to check which edition you’ll be experimenting with. If you’re a proofreader like me, and are considering the software primarily to access the Editor’s List, you’ll need to trial the Professional version.

View the video demos on the StyleWriter4 website, so you can see how the various features work.

Cost – it’s not free. If you are using alternative free software (such as TextSTAT) to generate checkable full-word and spelling lists, do your own cost-to-benefit analysis so that you can work out whether and when you will earn a return on your investment. You’ll need to know the value you place on X minutes of your time in order to do this. You may recoup your investment in a shorter or longer period of time than me because there are differences in our hourly rates, our fee structures, the services we offer, the speed at which we use alternative software, how many separate jobs we do per month, the word count in the files, and so on.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

June 19, 2015

Worth Reading: Onscreen Proofreading Tips: Reorganizing Your Stamps Palette in PDF-Xchange

If you proofread or edit on PDF, you should know about Louise Harnby’s free PDF proofreading stamps. In her latest essay on The Proofreader’s Parlour blog, Harnby describes how you can reorder the PDF stamps palette so that it better reflects your needs. Harnby’s article focuses on how to reorder the stamps palette in PDF-XChange (Acrobat doesn’t offer the same flexibility currently).

If you don’t already use her stamps, get them — they are free. If you do use them, reorganize them because, as Harnby writes,

Every second you spend scrolling to find the stamp you want adds up. Seconds become minutes, and minutes become hours. If you’re being paid per hour, and your client doesn’t have a top-line budget, it may not matter how long it takes you to do a job, nor that you’re working inefficiently. However, many clients do have a top line, and many editorial professionals are working for fixed fees. Efficiency matters. Furthermore, some of us need to attend to the way in which we use our hands, wrists and arms repetitively when working onscreen.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

April 22, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: The Power of the Portfolio

The Power of the Portfolio

by Louise Harnby

Including a portfolio of clients and completed projects on your editorial website is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use. Why? Because it’s shows you can practice what you preach.

The introductory paragraph on the homepage of my website tells potential clients how many years’ experience I have, the editorial services I offer, the types of client for whom I work, the national editorial society of which I am an Advanced Professional Member, my primary training qualification, and the number of books that I’ve proofread to date. Other pages on my website tell the client what I can do for them – for example, proofreading onscreen or on paper; the subject specialisms I’m comfortable tackling; the different types of mark-up I can offer. So far, all well and good — but how do I prove it?

Can do versus have done

The above information is, I believe, important and should be communicated to the client. But I don’t want just to focus my clients’ minds on what I can do; I also want them to know what I have done. That’s because what’s been done makes what could be done more believable. Inculcating a sense of trust and belief in a client is essential because each of us is competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of colleagues offering similar services. This is where the power of the portfolio comes in — it shows our customers that we are doers rather than just talkers. Anyone can set up an editorial business and write (or hire someone else to write) great copy that tells the customer what they want to hear. The portfolio takes things a step further, anchoring the message in a have-done practice-based, rather than could-do promise-based, framework.

But, oh, the clutter…

I’ll admit it, my portfolio web page is a dense beast. I made the decision to break it up across three pages in order to make information more accessible to potential clients: academic, fiction, and commercial non-fiction. But I’ve been in business since 2006 so, even with this remedial work, there’s still a lot of text. I’ve thought long and hard about this over the years, and on several occasions I’ve dabbled with the idea of decluttering, perhaps by offering a selected portfolio of completed projects. But then I’ll receive another request to proofread from a publisher, project manager, independent author or student, they’ll mention how impressive they found my portfolio, and I’ll put aside my urge to spring clean.

Some benefits of busyness…

  1. If you’re wondering how much information to provide in your online portfolio, and you are worried that including almost everything will make the web page look too busy, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself whether you think they will be put off by your long list of completed projects, or whether it will generate a stronger belief that you can provide the solution to their problems precisely because you have shown you have done it before. I know this much: the people who’ve told me (gently) that my portfolio “might be a little on the heavy side” are not clients — they’re colleagues, friends, and my husband! All of their opinions are gratefully appreciated, but, alas, they’re not the ones hiring me, and they’re not the ones hiring you!
  2. An extensive portfolio, though busy, provides you with rich key words that may help make you discoverable and interesting to potential clients. I don’t believe it hurts me to have a long list of completed proofreading projects on my website that include author names like David Silverman, Jürgen Habermas, Mary Kaldor, China Miéville, and James Herbert, but that’s because I want to work for people who want proofreaders comfortable working in the fields of qualitative research, critical theory, international relations, speculative fiction and horror, respectively. Neither do I think it hurts me to have a long list of completed proofreading projects on my website that include titles such as Criminology and Social Policy; Ethics and War; Globalization Theory; The Transgender Phenomenon; A Visit from the Goon Squad; Beyond Duty: Life on the Frontline in Iraq; and The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photography. These are more than titles; they include key words that may be used in long-tail searches (lengthier, more specific search terms) by my potential clients.

When considering your online portfolio, think about what these titles and author names tell your customer about what you have already done for other clients. Then consider how this affects their perception of what you can do for them.

Use navigation tools

You can include an extensive portfolio on your website without making your client want to gnaw off their own arm in a bid to navigate the information.

  • Consider separating the information into sections by genre, subject area, or the particular type of editorial service you provided.
  • Use multiple pages if you think this will add clarity.
  • Jump-to code is an excellent way of reducing the amount of scrolling the reader needs to do in order to move up and down a long web page (see how I managed this in “Website Tips for Editorial Pros: Using Jump-to Instructions” on my blog, Proofreader’s Parlour — I was surprised by how easy it was to incorporate into my website even though I’m not a techie!).

Test it!

Nothing is set in stone when it comes to any aspect of marketing your editorial business. If you’re nervous about what and how much information to include in your online portfolio, test different options: full portfolio of all works completed; selected works only; short summary including only a few key works. Keep an eye on your visitor stats (using tools such as Google Analytics or StatCounter), and do comparisons in six-month blocks to see who’s looking at which pages on your site. You may be surprised. Analysis of my own website stats (excluding my blog) in 2014 showed that my online portfolio represented 20% of all page views — second only to my home page.

Nailing the job before you’ve even quoted

If your client hasn’t seen your portfolio, the quotation stage can be trickier because you have to do all your selling at the same time as you’re discussing money. However, a strong portfolio that engenders trust and belief in a potential client before they’ve started talking to you means you’ve done a chunk of the hard selling work ahead of time. They can already see that you’re fit for purpose because of what you’ve already done. This instills in them a sense of professionalism that will be front of mind when it comes to direct contact.

In other words, a strong portfolio puts the value you are offering on the table ahead of the money that will have to leave the client’s pocket; the focus is, first and foremost, on benefit rather than cost.

What if I haven’t completed much work?

If you’re at the beginning of your professional editorial career, you probably won’t have an extensive portfolio. Be creative:

  • Consider using a narrative format that discusses the projects you have worked on in more detail, and how you delivered solutions to your client’s problems.
  • Expand your portfolio page to include testimonials from your smaller list of satisfied clients.
  • Include (with permission) a list of clients for whom you’ve worked.
  • Update your portfolio every time you complete a new project so that the list is always expanding.
  • Provide online samples (they can be made up) that demonstrate what you do when you are proofreading, copy-editing, or indexing. This shows you in a practice-based, rather than a promise-based, framework — these samples are things you’ve already done, not things you could do in the future.

Summing up

  • If you don’t yet have an online portfolio, get cracking and build one!
  • Tell the client what you have done as well as what you can do.
  • Focus on practice, not just promise.
  • Think of your portfolio in terms of what it tells people you want to hire you – your target customers — rather than your friends and colleagues.
  • Don’t over-fret about clutter — it’s about the quality of the information, and what it tells the client about your proven ability to solve their problems.
  • Consider the information you incorporate into your portfolio in terms of key word searches — that is, how it might help clients to find you.
  • Use navigation tools (including embedded code) to help your customer move around a busy portfolio web page.
  • Track page views to your site and test different portfolio styles to see what format you’re most comfortable with in terms of making yourself interesting to a customer.
  • Use your portfolio to put the value you offer ahead of the fee you charge.
  • Be creative if your portfolio is still in the early-growth stage.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

March 9, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: How Lucrative Are Your Editorial Clients Really? Keeping an Eye on Creeping Costs (Part II)

How Lucrative Are Your Editorial Clients Really?
Keeping an Eye on Creeping Costs (Part II)

by Louise Harnby

In this two-part essay, I consider the care we need to take when making assumptions about how lucrative certain client types are, particularly with regard to the time each of us spends on elements of the process that are unbillable. These unbillable elements can occur during the booking phase of a project, during the actual project work, and after completion of the work.

Part I considered the problems of defining how well clients pay and how fee expectations can vary even within, as well as between, client types. Then I looked at the booking phase of proofreading work, and considered how the situation can vary between a regular publisher client and a new nonpublisher client.

Part II considers how additional costs can creep into the actual editorial stage of a booked-in proofreading project, and into the postcompletion phase — again comparing regular publisher clients and new nonpublisher clients.

It’s worth reiterating the point made in Part I: Not all of the scenarios considered here will always occur with each client type on each job. Rather, I aim to show that (a) extra costs are less likely to creep in with the regular publisher client, and (b) this needs to be accounted for when considering which types of client are “well-paying.”

Creeping Costs During the Editorial Stage

Here’s a fictitious, but likely scenario. Let’s put to one side any costs incurred to firm up the job at booking stage.

Regular publisher client, PC, offers me the opportunity to proofread a 61,000-word fiction book for £17 per hour. The client estimates that the job will take 15 hours. Total fee: £255.

Also in my inbox is a request from a self-publishing author, SP, with whom I’ve not worked before. It’s also a 61,000-word fiction book. I assess the sample of the manuscript that’s been provided (it’s in good shape and has been professionally edited). I estimate the job will take 15 hours, and quote a fee of £345, which is accepted.

The job for SP looks much more lucrative on paper than the job for PC. I accept both jobs because even though the job from PC will bring in a lower fee, it’s still within my own particular required hourly rate.

I do the PC job first. I’ve worked for this publisher for years. We have a mutually understood set of expectations about what is required. The manuscript has been thoroughly copy-edited and professionally typeset. As usual, I receive a clear brief and a basic style sheet. It’s a straightforward job that takes me 15 hours (the in-house project manager is experienced enough that he can estimate with accuracy how long a job should take). I complete the work and return the proofs along with my invoice. End of job.

Next I tackle the SP book. It is in good shape and I should be able to complete the proofread in the time I estimated. However, I’ve underestimated the amount of hand-holding required. This client is a lovely person, but she’s a first-time author and she’s nervous. She sends me 13 emails during the course of the project, each of which takes time to read, consider, and respond to.

I keep track of the time I spend on these. On average, each one takes 15 minutes to deal with – that’s an extra 3.25 hours of my time that I’d not budgeted for when I quoted for her. It’s also an additional 3.25 hours of my time that I have to find space in my day for. I have to find the time out of office hours in order to respond – time that I’d rather spend doing other things.

The quoted fee was £345, based on 15 hours of work. This has turned into 18.25 hours of work. My hourly rate has gone from an expected £23 (cf. £17 from the publisher) to £18.90. It’s still within my required hourly rate, but my assessment that SP is more lucrative than PC is disappearing under my nose.

Of course, I should have quoted her a higher fee that took account of the fact that she was an unknown entity to me and that the job might take longer.

Again, it’s essential to consider the bigger picture when assessing the degree to which a particular client or client group “pays well.” With some clients, it’s harder to predict how a project will progress. And with nonpublisher clients, especially those with whom there’s no preexisting relationship, it’s essential to build hand-holding time into the assessment of how long a job will take, and then quoting accordingly, so that you’re less likely to get caught out.

Creeping Costs After Completion of the Project

I’ve been proofreading for publishers since 2005 and in that time the postproject correspondence has tended to go something like this:

Me: Thanks for the opportunity to proofread X for you — I really enjoyed it. Please find attached my invoice and my Notes & Queries sheet. Delivery of the proofs is scheduled for Y. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please let me know.

PM: Cheers, Louise. Glad you enjoyed it! Are you free to proofread…?

That’s the general gist of our postproject discussion — it’s friendly but concise. We’re already talking about forthcoming work. This recent job is closed. My PM’s schedule is as tight as mine and we’re both keen to move on. This isn’t always the case when we proofread directly for nonpublisher clients. The following snippets of postproject emails from clients are fictitious but I’ve encountered the like many a time. Do they strike a chord with you?

  • I’ve just been looking over the files one more time and I’m thinking about changing X… What do you think? Would that work?
  • Sorry to bother you. I changed the following sentences a bit. Could you just quickly look over them? There are only 25 — no rush. Just when you have a minute. Thanks so much!
  • Do you have any marketing advice you can give me for when the book’s published? I know you’re a proofreader but wondered if you had any ideas about how I can go about this. It’s a whole new world to me!
  • What did you think of the book? Please give me your honest opinion — even if it’s negative. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say!
  • Would you mind giving me your opinion of the cover? You did such a great job with the text and I’d really appreciate knowing what you think!
  • I’d really like to approach some agents, now that the book’s in good shape. Do you have any recommendations or advice about how to go about this?

It’s not unusual for these postproject discussions to take place. What is less usual is that editorial professionals manage them appropriately. Too often, they become unbillable costs that detract from the project fee. There’s nothing wrong with a client asking these things and it’s not that the editorial business owner shouldn’t have these conversations. They do incur a cost, though.

If you regularly build postproject handholding time into your original quotation, all well and good. But if you don’t and you are prone to offering free, additional support to your clients, take a step back and ask yourself how much this is impacting on the value of each project, and your required and desired rates. If you spend an additional two hours emailing back and forth about these extras, that time needs to be set off against the invoiced fee; those hours need to be tracked so that you can work out exactly what the final value of the project is to you.

A better solution is to communicate to the client, immediately and politely, that you’d be happy to discuss X or Y, and what the cost will be for the additional work. I appreciate that for some editorial folk this is very difficult because they’ve built up a strong relationship with the client during the editorial process, and the tone of communication may well have become informal, even friendly. However, we have to remember that we’re running a business and that our professional expertise has a fee attached to it. There’s no shame in putting a price on the additional work we’re being asked to carry out.

Controlling Creeping Costs

Here are some thoughts on how to keep control of creeping costs in editorial work:

  • Where possible, build a safety net into your quotations for clients. This will help to ensure that hand-holding and other types of support are billed for.
  • At the start of negotiations, make it clear what levels of support, both during and after the work is complete, are available as part of the agreed price, and what will incur additional costs.
  • If you think that you are the type of person who is likely to go beyond your own brief and allow additional costs to creep into your project work, and you’re happy for that to be the case, then that’s your choice and it’s fine. But do be honest with yourself in your accounting process. Only by tracking the time we actually spend on a project can we accurately assess which client types are the “best” payers according to our own required and desired rates.
  • Create some value-added content that you can refer clients to when they have questions that are beyond the scope of the job. I created my free Guidelines for New Authors in order to direct less-experienced authors to resource centres and knowledge bases that would (a) help them on their journey and (b) reduce the amount of time I spend on unbillable and nonproofreading queries.

By being aware of ALL of the time we spend on a project with our clients, we can develop insights into the financial health of our business. This enables us to make decisions about who we want to work with and what their actual value is to us.

A Quick Summary:
5 Things to Remember When Assessing Client Groups

  • The fees we can earn will vary — between clients, and between client groups more broadly.
  • What one person considers “poor” pay will be acceptable to another, and vice versa. This is because each individual editorial business owner’s financial requirements are personal.
  • It is not true that, in general, publishers don’t pay well. Rather, some publishers offer fees that exceed my required and desired fees; some offers exceed only my required fees; and some offers meet neither.
  • Nor is it true that, in general, nonpublisher clients are more lucrative. They might be or they might not be. It will depend on the particular client, the project being undertaken, how well the estimation of the project’s demands stacks up against the reality, and how much control one keeps over the additional costs that could creep into the work.
  • Keep a close eye on all the time that goes into a project. By doing this, you can make realistic assessments of what works for you, rather than what works for your friends and colleagues.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

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