This week is the third anniversary of my permanent move to France. I can still remembering leaving at 6.30 am, and looking out of the back window of the taxi to wave at one of my old housemates, wondering if I was doing the right thing. It had taken two and a half years of detailed planning to reach this stage, commuting monthly between the two countries as my husband and beloved dog had gone out first, as the advance party. It took me nearly twelve hours to get ‘home’, lugging two huge wheeled suitcases, a laptop, a rucksack and a carrier bag of last-minute shopping across London and Paris, in taxis, Tube, Metro, and various trains. The very next day I started the process of registering my autoentreprenneur (self-employed) business in France; there was no going back now.
I haven’t always been a proofreader and copy-editor; it was a mid-life career change for me. I spent thirty years working in the insurance industry and started academic proofreading almost by accident. A happy accident it was too, as I found that I loved working with words, and decided to make it a fulltime professional career. One of the first things I did was to research professional training. I’d had to pass professional exams and undertake continuing professional development throughout my insurance career, so training and distance learning were nothing new to me. In fact, I’m one of those strange people that actually likes taking exams. I started with the Publishing Training Centre’s Basic Proofreading course, a distance learning course that is much harder than its ‘basic’ title implies. About the same time I also joined the Society for Proofreaders and Editors. Both moves were well worthwhile and ones I’d recommend to any budding proofreader. Since completing my initial training I’ve done two Continuing Professional Development courses with SfEP: Introduction to Copy-editing and Copy-editing Progress, and up-graded my membership status.
When you’re working as a freelancer it’s best not to have all your eggs in one basket, so whilst I had a nice steady trickle of academic proofreading work, I needed to expand the work sources. There is some brilliant advice on setting up a freelance proofreading business in both Louise Harnby’s book Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Liz Dexter’s How I Survived My First Year of Full-time Self-employment. I read both from cover to cover. I set up a profile on the People per Hour website and before long started to win some interesting assignments. I know there is some scepticism about these types websites, but I found that once you’ve some good feedback behind you the work will come to you. I still work on PPH and have a few Hourlies listed which are good for filling voids between larger projects. Every business, large or small, needs an internet presence, so I knew that I’d need a website. This was way beyond my computer skills (although fully getting to grips with WordPress is on my ‘to do’ list) and it was one area where paying another professional certainly paid off.
When I started running my own business I was fully up to speed on the internet: research, skype, shopping, banking, VPN systems, email, and I could use all the Microsoft Office packages, but social media was still a bit of a mystery to me. I did have an old Facebook account and I’d heard of Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest, but I’d no idea what they were or why anyone with too much time on their hands would prefer tweeting to reading a book. However, re-discovering Facebook was a turning point. I found out that it wasn’t just a place to boast about where you were on holiday or post photographs of cats, but there were support groups for a whole range of things. I found several support groups for business owners in France – it’s difficult enough setting up a business but doing it in a second language adds a new dimension. I invested in some social media training, which instantly repeated rewards. I learned what a hashtag was, attended ‘virtual events’ and learned to use sites like Hootsuite, Canva and Picmonkey.
Confucius said, ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’. I love proofreading and editing, and I certainly wish that I had discovered it earlier in my working life. I also love running my own business. There are frustrations, and it can be a little solitary, but the editing profession is very supportive, as are fellow business owners in France. It was a great anniversary present to receive my certificate for passing the Copy-editing Progress course. In the next year I’d like to do some more training, so that I can develop my copy-editing skills and upgrade my SfEP membership further. I’m also planning to carry on reading, for work and pleasure, writing, and blogging. Although I have never met any of my clients in person, in the past three years I’ve had the pleasure to work with many lovely people from all around the globe and work on a wide variety of subjects. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute.