As the romance of Valentine’s Day fades into the past and I attempt to retrieve the last remaining crumbs of chocolate from my box of Thornton’s, I realise it’s very nearly time to renew my vows to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
I might not be up to my eyeballs in Valentine’s offers, but membership of an editorial association is one commitment I’m more than happy to say ‘yes’ to for many years to come.
So, SfEP, let me count the ways I love you.
1. You inspire me (to develop my career)
They say that love inspires us to do our best, and the SfEP has a clear route for career progression, from Entry Level to Advanced Professional membership. People can join at the level that best fits the experience and training they already have, whether they’re just thinking about becoming a proofreader or have been doing the job for decades. The upgrading process is demanding but fair, so it really means something when you work your way up.
There are opportunities for professional development at all membership levels – from learning from others at the annual conference to doing training courses. I’ve got so much from the conferences I’ve been to, but don’t take my word for it – here’s a conference round-up.
There are plenty of other, less formal opportunities for professional development too. One of these is to contribute your own knowledge. That could be by sharing tips and experience on the forums, writing a blog post, proofreading or testing resources, mentoring others, running a local group, giving a conference session or working as a director.
For me, this professional development replaces the appraisal and promotion systems I was used to as an employee. It’s helped me set goals, review my progress and develop my career in new (and sometimes unexpected!) ways.
2. You bring me presents (by helping me find good clients)
Sod diamonds – I’d rather have work. Professional and Advanced Professional members of the SfEP can have a listing in the Directory of Editorial Services. My listing has brought me new clients and acts as a CV. It’s easier for clients to find the Directory than to stumble across my website, as the Directory is ranked highly by search engines and it’s a well-known, trusted place to find editorial professionals.
Apart from the Directory, there’s a forum where members can express interest in work shared by others, and a regular list of Intermediate Members who are available to take on work that other members can’t fit in.
I’ve also received referrals from other members after getting to know them through the society, sometimes even working with them on projects. For example, I work with Advanced Professional member Helen Stevens on big batches of school reports that need to be turned around quickly. Working together has been such a great experience – I’ve learned more efficient ways of doing things, not to mention some delicious veggie recipes. For more on the joys of working together, read Helen’s article.
Of course, enquiries through an editorial association’s directory is just one source of work among many others – social media and local events, for example. But wherever an enquiry comes from, being able to let clients know I’m a member of a professional organisation gives them more confidence that I’ll do a good job, act in a professional way and not let them down. And knowing I meet those professional standards is a good antidote to impostor syndrome (see this post by Sara Donaldson). It gives me the confidence to charge a fee that reflects the time and effort I put in and the experience I bring to a project.
3. You fill my life with happiness (by bringing like-minded people into it)
As an editor who works alone (and is quite happy with that most of the time!), one of the most important things about being part of a professional organisation is the social side.
By ‘alone’ I also include working in a team where you’re the only person doing your job – in my last two employed roles I was the only editorial person in the company, and in hindsight being part of an association of like-minded professionals would have been an enormous benefit. (For more on being a member when you work in-house, see this post by Eleanor Abraham.)
Online and in person, the SfEP has made it easier for me to get to know a wide circle of other editors and proofreaders. They’re supportive and generous in an industry that’s often thought of as competitive. Going to local group meetings, the international group (Skype Club) and the conference, and contributing to forum discussions, are all ways to build contacts – some near enough to meet for a coffee and others in far-flung places around the world.
I don’t like big crowds and the word ‘networking’ makes me want to hide under the covers, so I’d been a member for a while before I felt brave enough to go to the conference (if you feel the same, read this post by Abi Saffrey). I shouldn’t have worried, though – it was refreshing to spend time with a whole load of friendly people who do similar work, and it was reassuring to find that they aren’t all perfect and that they share some of the same challenges I do. This has led to new friendships and opportunities, some of them pushing me outside my comfort zone (more on that another time).
For example, after going to a conference session about accountability groups (by Denise Cowle) and another on content marketing (by Louise Harnby and John Espirian), a colleague and I set up an accountability pair for our blog posts. We proofread each other’s posts, ask for each other’s opinion on things like tone and images, and make constructive comments. It’s motivating to work together and reassuring to know somebody else thinks my post isn’t a load of rubbish before I send it out.
Of course, you don’t have to be part of a professional society to get to know other editors and proofreaders, but being a member gives you lots of contacts instantly and provides opportunities to meet together often. With you, SfEP, an open relationship’s a good thing.
4. You support me – and inspire me to support others
When I need some help or advice, the SfEP’s always there. From the resources on the website (such as guides, model terms and conditions, suggested minimum rates and a magazine, Editing Matters), to forum discussions and discounts on training – and, obviously, the training itself – there’s plenty of support available.
Rather than being competitive, other members go out of their way to help if you’re stuck on some usage point, you’re struggling with Word or you just need a few words of advice – and I know from experience that they do their best to save you from making silly mistakes!
There’s also a legal advice line, which I’ve used more than once for help with thorny clauses in contracts.
Behind the scenes, the organisation is constantly promoting the editorial profession by going along to events and meetings, such as the London Book Fair.
There are also so many ways to be a friend in return, and my goal is to do more of this in future. It can be as easy as replying to a question on one of the forums (remember: as Amy Armitage-Reay says, don’t fear the forums) or passing on your experience to new members at a local group meeting. Sharing the love is what it’s all about!
5. You make me a better person
… well, at least a more accountable one. Two of the SfEP’s aims are to promote high editorial standards and to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Being a member makes me feel accountable – to myself, to my clients and to my professional body. As an Advanced Professional member, I need to keep to the Code of Practice, commit to improving and refreshing my skills through professional development and, in general, work to a high standard.
Knowing that I’m representing a professional organisation as well as myself gives me that extra motivation and check.
6. You’re full of surprises!
Five years ago, when I set up my own business, I wasn’t sure if I should join. Would I be welcome as someone who’d never worked in ‘proper’ publishing? Would my experience in the not-for-profit sector be recognised? Would I feel intimidated by stronger personalities? Would it really help me find clients?
My doubts soon evaporated. I felt welcome from the first time I went along to the Manchester group, where I quickly found that many other members work outside traditional publishing too, in all sorts of niches. All my editing and proofreading experience counted when I upgraded my membership, and as I got to know people whose comments and posts I’d admired from afar I found out how generous and kind they are.
Like all relationships, though, you get out what you put in. SfEP, I love you just the way you are, and I hope we’ll stay together for many years to come!
Other love letters (not mentioned above)
More than friendly faces – a blog post by Kathrin Luddecke on joining a local group
Why would anyone join a local SfEP group? by Alison Platts
Should I renew my SfEP membership? by Sabine Citron
Why editors should join international editors’ associations by Ellen Michelle
Impressions of a 2017 conference ‘spotty’ by Frances Cooper
Find an editorial association near you
Advanced Professional SfEP member Louise Harnby has compiled a useful list of professional societies and associations for editors and proofreaders around the world.