Top 5 Things I Learned at the 2019 Editors Canada Conference by Becky Noelle

It’s been a month since the 2019 Editors Canada National Conference in Halifax, and I am still processing all that I learned! It was an incredible experience that has helped me jump start my freelance editing business and get excited about all the possibilities.

1.  Editors are Important

Of course, we all already know that editors are important, or we wouldn’t have chosen this career! Being at the conference though, and getting to see the work that editors do and hearing about the difference they make for authors and academics, really brought this point home for me.

I attended Glenna Jenkins’ session on editing scholarly papers for ESL authors and got excited about the prospect that an editor could mean the difference between getting an academic’s work published or having it be rejected. Cathy McPhalen, Rhonda Kronyk, and Becka Barker, in their session on navigating funding proposals, showed how editors can help companies find and obtain grant money they didn’t know existed. Without the help of editors, these authors and companies would not be able to achieve their goals.

2.  Diverse Opportunities Abound

Before attending the conference, I had a rough idea of what an editor might do all day. But after talking to editors throughout the conference and hearing many of them speak about their businesses and positions, the world of editing was truly opened up to me.

An editor may liaise between a children’s book author, the art director, and the illustrator to create beautifully experiential children’s picture books, as I learned in Whitney Moran’s session.

An editor may use sensitivity reading—reading carefully, looking out for bias and stereotypes—to ensure that a book respectfully represents Indigenous populations, as Tiffany Morris spoke about in her session on Mi’kmaw Two-Eyed reading.

Or an editor may ensure the mathematical facts and reasoning are accurate in math textbooks, as Julia Cochrane does, whom I met during a speed mentoring session.

Before attending the conference, I knew that editors edited words. I now understand that the diversity of the works an editor edits is only limited by their own creativity, interests, and passions.

My biggest take away on this lesson was meeting with Janice Dyer during speed mentoring. Before taking my editing certificate, I was a teacher. I am interested in finding work editing educational texts—Janice showed me the way. In our short 20-minute session, Janice gave me pointers to get in touch with educational publishers and gave me great encouragement that there is work out there in my hoped-for niche.

3.  Business Data Increases Profits

I had the great pleasure of hosting Erin Brenner’s session on using business information to increase your profits. I have already used Erin’s fantastic templates to start tracking the time I am spending on business leads, sample edits, and the like.

Erin shared wonderful insight on the importance of tracking your business data over time to develop your own understanding of how quickly you work and how much you need to charge to make a living. Do you charge hourly? By the word? By the project? For Erin, it doesn’t matter—you should track it all.

If you charge by the hour, for example, tracking your data will allow you to see how many standard 250-word pages you edit in an hour and therefore how many words you edit in an hour. From your hourly rate you can then determine what your per-word or per-page rate is.

You can use excel to track the data and then decide if you are charging enough for the work you are doing and adjust accordingly. Tracking business lead data allows you to see which means are most effective in gaining work—and thus most worthy of your time. And tracking client types allows you to seek out those long-term, high-paying clients that will make your business sustainable.

4.  Clarity is Key

I attended two sessions that focussed on writing clearly: Eight-Step Editing presented by Elizabeth d’Anjou and Using Plain Language Principles to Improve Your Editing Practice by Nicole Watkins Campbell.

Elizabeth’s half-day session laid out the essentials for editing to increase readability. In Nicole’s session, we had the opportunity to discuss the frustrations with—and possible reasons for—unclear writing.

Both sessions again reminded me of the importance of editors. Without proper editing, writing may not communicate the intended message. Our world is full of distractions, yet writing remains one of the primary means of communication. Editors are essential in ensuring that the message is clear and accessible for the intended audience.

5.  You are Enough

My favourite session was Laura Poole’s pre-conference session on being bold in your freelance business. Laura talked about creating your own opportunities and authentic networking. The thing that really stuck for me was using the word “just”. Or not using it, actually.

Laura pointed out how we often introduce ourselves and what we do using words like “just” or “only” rather than really selling what we do. I quickly caught myself saying things like, “I’m just a student,” or, “I’m only just starting out in editing.” For the remainder of the weekend and beyond, Laura’s words have rung through my head as I introduce myself to someone new. I find myself about to say, “I’ve just finished my editing certificate,” or, “I’ve only written casually in the past,” when what I need to say is, “I have an editing certificate along with a bachelor of science and over five years of teaching experience where I wrote frequently for a variety of audiences.”

Having a freelance editing business is all about marketing yourself and showing clients that they need your skills to make their writing great. I may not have been “officially” editing for very long, but the reality is that I have skills to offer and those skills will only improve with more practice and time.

Thank you Laura and all of the other presenters at the conference for motivating and inspiring me to get started on creating a freelance editing business of which I can be proud!

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