Today is a momentous day.
My professional society, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), has become the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).
Chartership is a huge step for any professional organisation. Apart from the fact that HM The Queen has personally ratified it (thank you, Your Maj!), it is a Genuinely Good Thing.
Why? Say you’re looking for an accountant to do your tax return. Are you going to go on Craigslist, Gumtree or greasy-pole, hard-bidding websites to find a person with – how can I put this? – questionable provenance to cobble something together for £5? Or are you going to check out ICAEW or CIMA and get someone who is properly trained and qualified to do the job for you?
Well, membership of any industry chartered institute is the same. You know what you’re getting: professionals who are properly trained, vetted and required to commit to excellence. Who adhere to a code of conduct, promote high standards and operate ethically.
Today, my heart is full for my professional society. It is the organisation representing editors in the UK, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. I’ve been an Advanced Professional Member since 2000, when I joined, and I honestly can’t imagine operating outside of it.
Apart from practical resources such as training courses and CPD, and the excellent marketing presence offered by the directory, the support, cameraderie and care that CIEP members give to each other, both online and at meetings and the annual conference, is second to none.
It’s like an uber-mastermind group of 3,000 fantastic people. They are my tribe.
I talk here at the CIEP about just how important a professional society has been throughout my 30 years in the industry.
When I worked in-house, the directory was the resource for good editorial people. And when I went freelance, becoming a member endorsed my offer in the eyes of the in-house staff commissioning me.
And now, we are chartered. It’s a massive achievement, especially by all of the organisation’s directors and members who put in months of unbelievably hard work to get to this day.
I commend them, and all of the CIEP’s members. I couldn’t be happier at this wonderful outcome.
A double celebration
This date also marks a Red Letter month for me, as a special anniversary.
I’ve been freelance for 20 years. I honestly can’t believe I’ve been on a solo flight for this long!
At times it’s been challenging, but hopefully longevity has justified earning my wings. Having been ‘out of the office’ for two decades now, it’s hard to envisage ever going back!
In truth, I love the freedom of it all. With freedom comes responsibility, but so long as you’re prepared to deal, living this kind of life can be really rewarding.
I’m sitting here writing, having filed a book edit with a lovely client. I’m at liberty to step out and relax in a cafe, then take a walk somewhere green and restorative while everyone else is chained to their desks.
I can organise time off whenever I want without having to ask the boss – because I am the boss. The weird thing is that I don’t think of myself as a CEO, but I suppose those of us who operate alone really are!
Some of the people I know who started out at the same time now run their own companies, enjoying the insomnia and heartburn-inducing pressure of employing staff and keeping shareholders happy. But seriously, I’m delighted they’re doing so well. They love what they do too, and it’s totally right for them.
I never wanted to do that: to leave a company, only to re-experience exactly the same kind of enterprise in a leadership role, with the burden of total responsibility for others’ livelihood. In that regard, it’s actually quite easy to function independently in an industry such as publishing, because it’s always been heavily reliant on outsourcing.
Small and beautiful
Keeping it small and beautiful is where it’s at, for me anyway.
Being freelance has also strengthened me as a person. Running your own business really teaches you how to set boundaries, respect a very real need to look after yourself, and to understand your emotional bottom line.
Nonetheless, solo flights can be lonely, and you might find yourself in need of a map. You don’t have the benefit of 360-degree feedback or employer appraisal. It’s so important to keep checking in with yourself, to be honest about the path you’re on, and whether it’s actually making you happy. Otherwise, it simply isn’t worth it.
Some years into the process, I identified a need for change. I took a step back, gave serious thought to my offer, and expanded it to help independent authors develop their books.
Now I’m collaborating with fantastic writers, and my work has become so much more rewarding. Yes, it still requires me to be a super-technician and grammar wrangler, but it also brings me the joy of nurturing new talent and a genuinely lovely feeling of creative accomplishment.
Even now, this far down the line, I still have to stop and pinch myself at what a privilege it is to work in publishing. Not everyone gets to do this. Whenever people ask what I do, I love that it sparks a conversation fuelled by fascination with books: what they enjoy reading, what I’m working on, how thrilling it is to experience the world of a story.
The written word is in my heart. It always has been. I am so lucky to have been able to make this my life’s work.
What I’ve learned so far in my own freelance journey, I’ve shared on this blog with you. I will keep writing, and I hope what’s on the pages here is of help or reassurance, or even just of passing interest.
Here’s to celebration today, and to many happy years to come!