Written by Lynn Slobogian; copy edited by Erin Parker
Barb Adamski, a freelance writer and editor for over a decade, will be teaching Editors BC’s November seminar, Freelance Editing 101. The seminar will cover what to consider before setting up shop; how to find and keep good clients; and the benefits, pitfalls, and not-so-fun (yet necessary!) aspects of freelancing.
Lynn Slobogian, Editors BC’s professional development chair, recently chatted with Barb about her path into freelance editing, how the profession might evolve over the next 10 years, and overcoming some of the challenges new freelance editors face.
Barb, you’ve been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years. Why did you take this route? And how did you get started?
This time around was my second time freelancing. The first was when I was in Japan, and it was more writing and rewriting, less editing, and still largely paper-based. When I moved back to Canada, I went in a different direction, but realized that the favourite parts of my previous jobs all involved writing, so I started to look into other career options. In the meantime, however, technology had invaded the industry. I didn’t even know about Track Changes until I encountered it in an editing test! While I likely did really well on the test, I forgot to save the file before closing it, so I didn’t get the job. The experience did, however, make me realize that I still needed to learn a few things if I wanted to work in the field. I applied for and got accepted into Douglas College’s Print Futures program. I started working for pay while still in the program so just kept doing what I was doing when I graduated. One of my first projects after graduating was an 18-month contract, with my editing instructor as project manager. Working for someone I really respected and admired was a huge bonus.
Your upcoming seminar takes us through the basics of starting a freelance editing career. What do you see as the greatest challenge of beginning as a freelancer?
There are a lot of challenges that freelancers can face, but I don’t think there is necessarily one great challenge that all freelance editors face. Many of us arrive at freelance editing after following wildly different career paths, so “the greatest challenge” is going to be different for every person. I do, however, think that many new freelancers feel that they don’t have enough experience to take on certain projects, especially with regard to specialty subjects. That may be true in some cases, but often, if you know how to edit, you don’t necessarily need specialized knowledge of the subject. Even when you do have deep knowledge of a subject, you need to step back and put yourself in the reader’s shoes: is the content clear to the reader? Some of my most fascinating editing projects involved subject areas I’d never worked in before. I’m glad I didn’t turn them down (or get turned down by the client) for lack of subject-matter knowledge.
From your perspective, how will freelance editing evolve over the next 10 years?
Haha! I have no idea. Ten years ago, Facebook was available only to Harvard students and Twitter hadn’t even launched. Now I use both of those platforms regularly for connecting with other writers and editors, both professionally and socially. I couldn’t venture a guess as to where the industry will be in 10 years. All I know is that editors are going to have to be fairly early adopters of new technologies, because those technologies will lead to new markets, new clients, and new ways of communicating.
Tell us one of your personal and professional goals for the next year.
Every year I like to have at least one project that is completely different, whether it’s a new genre or medium, or a subject area that is completely new to me. It’s fun and challenging to experience something new. I also have a children’s book that I hope to publish next year.
What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve been given, Barb?
Hire an accountant. Accountants stay up to date on the most recent changes to tax law, and a good accountant will know what you can and can’t deduct. While I loved doing my own income taxes when I was working for someone else, it’s far better for me both financially and productivity-wise to leave my taxes to a pro.
Lynn Slobogian plunged into full-time freelance editing in 2014 after 15 years in international development. She is the professional development chair of Editors BC and co-chair of the 2016 Editors Canada conference, along with Amy Haagsma. She has been a member of Editors Canada since 2012.
Erin Parker is a professional bookworm and full-time freelance editor of trade fiction and non-fiction for adults and young readers. She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in publishing since 2013.
Photo provided by Barb Adamski.