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Monthly Archives: September 2013

How to turn a new customer into a regular customer

handshakeWhatever field you’re working in, having a stable of good, reliable regular clients who send you work, are good communicators and pay decent rates in good time is a good place to be. The kind of client you want as a regular is the kind of client who follows all of these rules. You may have chosen to work with them based on these criteria. And, in fact, if you follow these rules for freelancers yourself, you should have no trouble in attracting regulars.

I’ve written about how to decide which companies to work with. Here are some ways to help you turn a good first-time client into a trusted regular. If you have other suggestions, do add a comment to this post!

Do a good job the first time

This one’s a bit obvious, but it’s worth saying. Do a good job the first time, and you’re likely to create a regular client just like that!

Be memorable for your good customer service

Leave the client with a good final impression. I’m always sure to say thank you for their payment and to wish them well with the publication / website / new service / novel / whatever it is that you’ve done for them this time.

Make sure that your client knows you’d like to work with them again

When I send my thank you for their payment, I make sure that I make it clear that I’d like to work with them again. Something along the lines of “I’m looking forward to working with you on future projects” will set a good note.

Remind the client that you’re available

When you’re establishing a relationship with a client, the odd little email reminder of your availability is fine (obviously don’t hassle them). If you have a newsletter, asking them if they’d like to be added to your mailing list and sending them a monthly newsletter can keep you in their mind.

Make sure that clients know about all of your services

If, like me, you offer more than one service, make sure that your clients know this, too. I’ve got several long-term customers who use me for more than one service – one has moved from using my transcription services to using me as an editor (I also still transcribe for them) and a few use me for editing and localisation. Even if they only do one thing themselves, it’s useful for people to know your range, in case they recommend you to their colleagues.

Offer an incentive

Once I have completed a job for a new customer and they’ve paid me successfully, I offer then an incentive. No, not money off! But I will usually offer to invoice them for all of the jobs I do for them in a month, at the end of the month. Win for them: they are given longer to pay and will receive one invoice for several jobs. Win for me: I only have to produce one invoice and record one payment, and I can add them to my monthly invoice run.

Note: make sure you are clear that this is an offer and they don’t have to take it up. If they don’t want to do this, make a note and invoice them how they like it to be done, for example.

Thank them for their repeated custom and treat regulars well

I regularly tell my regulars how much I appreciate their regular custom and I treat them well in as many other ways as I can, too:

  • I make it clear that at busy times, I will prioritise their work over new work (and I tell new prospects this, too – I think it gives a good impression to let everyone know that I treat my regulars well).
  • I will also go above and beyond, doing a super-fast turnaround or working late to fit a job in – not to the detriment of other clients or my own health and sanity, but I treat them as well as I can.
  • If I’m booking holiday or other time off, I will email my regulars in advance to warn them, so they don’t just find out when they get my out of office reply.
  • I will offer regulars a named holiday cover contact who they can work with when I’m not available, and introduce them to a trusted colleague if they wish me to.

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This is how I have converted one-off customers into regulars, and have built a group of regulars who bring me regular work and income and peace of mind in knowing I’ve got a stable business. And how I keep them!

If you have any more tips and tricks do share them in the comments. And do please click on the buttons below to share this post!

Find more articles about careers and freelancing in this resource guide. Related articles:

How to decide who to work with.

What’s the best mix of customers to have?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Business, Ethics, Jobs, Organisation

 

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Small business chat update – Sally-Jayne Braisby

mugsToday we’re catching up with Sally-Jayne Braisby of SJB Teaching, who we first met on 4 August 2012. Where did Sally-Jayne want to be in a year’s time? She was pretty specific: There are some subjects I enjoy teaching more than others. I like languages, English, maths, science, history and geography. I loathe PE and music. In a year’s time I would still like to be working with such a wide age-range as now, but I would love to be in a position where I can teach more of my favourite subjects and less of my least favourite ones.  I’d also like to be doing more private tuition, as this is the most rewarding type of teaching: you can really see children growing in confidence as their understanding improves“. Detailed, specific plans can be very good for focusing the mind: let’s see how Sally-Jayne did!

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I’m exactly where I hoped I would be. I wanted to be teaching more of the things I really enjoy, such as languages, and this year I have. I was invited back for the second year running to teach on a French course at one of the universities in Birmingham, and I spent half a term working in a private school teaching just French and Spanish.

I’ve been doing a lot of private tuition, which is another thing I wanted to be doing more of. At one point I had a waiting list, but happily I have now managed to fit everybody in!

I also said that I hope to be teaching less of the things I don’t enjoy, and I haven’t had to teach a single music lesson this year!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still providing a supply service to schools, and I’m still doing intervention work and private tuition. However, my client base has changed slightly.  When you interviewed me last year I was studying for my BSL Level 2 exams with the idea of working with deaf or hearing impaired pupils in the future.  I’m now providing a lot of cover in a specialist school for deaf children, so that’s quite a big change!

The money I’ve spent on dyslexia workshops and the time I’ve spent doing my own research has also paid off, as I am doing more work with individuals who have dyslexia.

The age range for my private tuition has changed too. When I first set out I tutored just Year 6 pupils for SATs.  Then because families were so happy with the progress their children were making, I was asked to tutor younger siblings, so the range grew from 10-11 years to 6-11 years. This year I’ve been asked to keep many of my pupils on to support them through their first year in secondary school.  At the moment, I will only keep pupils on to the end of Year 7, as I’m not familiar with the curriculum for maths or English beyond that, but I’m planning to become familiar with it so that I can continue to support my pupils for as long as they and their families need me to. In fact, I spent the long summer holidays brushing up on GCSE maths!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

The new experiences I’ve had this year mean that I’ve become better at what I do. For example, working with deaf children has taught me not to talk so much!

I wish I’d know that networking is easier than I thought it would be. I’m quite shy, so I’ve always steered clear of conferences and such like, but this year I have discovered that because everyone there has similar interests, it’s really easy to strike up a conversation. I’ve made some good contacts this year, and who knows where they could lead.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Be professional at all times, and don’t ever feel that it’s a waste of time giving advice – it’s amazing how much work comes from recommendations, not just from clients, but from the people you just took the time to chat to and help.

Also – don’t be afraid to spend time researching areas you find interesting – even if it’s time you could spend doing paid work. The effort I made learning about dyslexia and BSL has really opened up some exciting new avenues to me.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

If I’m still in exactly the position I’m in now, I’ll be happy.  If I could change anything I’d like to do more language teaching in universities, and more work training primary school teachers ready for languages to appear back on the curriculum in 2014. That is all dependent on me finding time to get in touch with primary head teachers and university MFL departments, letting them know what I can do though!

Sally’s update provides a VERY good example of how important continuous professional development is, whatever your profession. She’s put that time in to update her learning and skills – as she says, devoting time to it that could have been spent on paid work – and has reaped the dividends in terms of new client bases and more diversity in the services she can offer. While it’s important not to dilute your brand, it can be very useful to widen the services you offer within your specialised area, and this is what Sally-Jayne’s been able to do. In my own work, I’ve bitten the bullet and bought some translation software to use in my localisation and translation editing work, and am spending the time I need to learn how to use it, so I can work with my clients using the software they use. Time spent learning will hopefully pay me back many times over in better workflows and happier clients. I hope Sally-Jayne’s in the same position she is in now next year, too! See how Sally-Jayne was doing in 2014.

Visit the SJB Teaching website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and blog!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I add footnotes to a Word document?

Academic and non-fiction writers use footnotes to refer to additional text which doesn’t fit into the flow of your paragraph but does need to be included. It might be used to provide a reference for a quotation or statement you’ve made, or might contain a digression or discussion of something you’ve just written about. It might also contain a translation of a non-native quotation you’ve placed in the text, or the non-native original quotation whose translation you’ve just given.

What do footnotes look like?

Footnotes can take two forms. Either there’s a raised number after the bit of text that they refer to, like this,1 or a symbol like an asterisk or paragraph mark is used (pleasingly, there is an order for these: *, , , §, ‖, ). In timetables and other tables, superscript (up high) letters and other symbols may be used.

In relation to this marker, a note will appear at the bottom of the page with the same marker at the beginning, which includes the additional / explanatory text:

0 footnotes

How do I create a footnote in Word 2007 and Word 2010?

The Footnote section is found in the References tab of the ribbon (not Insert, as you might expect):

2 menu

We need some example text first. Here’s some text after which we want to place footnotes:

1 before footnotes

Position the cursor in the position in which you want the footnote to appear (note, I am putting the footnotes AFTER the punctuation. This is common but not universal. The important thing is to be consistent) and press the Insert Footnote button:

3 button

A footnote number will now appear where your cursor is, and a note number under a line at the bottom of the page, ready for you to insert your footnote text:

3.1 insert footnote

Note that this has automatically pushed down the next paragraph onto the next page of the document. This is one of the reasons why you should automate this process and not do it manually.

You can type text into your footnote field – you can also change the paragraph style, font, size etc. as you would a normal bit of text; however, the way it defaults, with notes smaller than the main text, is the standard way to do it, so try not to mess around with it too much.

3.2 insert footnote

When you want to insert the next footnote, position your cursor in the next place and hit the Insert footnote button again. The next footnote will automatically number itself with the next number (or letter, or symbol: see below under Footnote options) and position itself under the first one:

3.3 insert footnote 2

If a footnote gets particularly long, Word will automatically shift the text and footnotes around so that they are on the same page and fit in correctly.

How do I delete a footnote?

Another benefit of using the automated footnote system is that you can delete and move footnotes and the numbering will adjust itself to stay correct.

How NOT to delete a footnote: Don’t highlight the footnote itself and delete it. This will have no effect on the numbering.

Instead, highlight the number in the text or position your cursor at the point just after it:

3.4 delete footnote

Delete that little number …

3.5 delete footnote

and the number will disappear from after “print,”, plus the one after “days.” will change to a 1 and footnote 1 will disappear, to be replaced by footnote 2, which has now become footnote 1. Magic!

What are the footnote options?

If you click on the little arrow at the bottom right of the Footnotes section, you will be given a range of Footnote and Endnote options that can be customised to suit your needs:

4 footnote options

You can choose between having footnotes and endnotes here (endnotes appear at the end of a chapter or the whole text, and will also be discussed in a different post). Then, you can choose the number format (drop down the arrow in each case):

5 footnote options

including those famous symbols (and you can also add your own symbol if you really have to). Select and hit Apply.

You can choose whether the numbering remains continuous throughout your document or restarts on every page (useful for tables) or in every section:

6 footnote options

And you can highlight a section of text and apply these changes only to the highlighted text (this changes to being the default when you highlight the text):

7 footnote options

How to add footnotes in Word 2003

In Word 2003, you add footnotes using the Insert – Reference menus. The footnote options are then the same as above.

How not to add footnotes to Word documents

It is possible, but NOT RECOMMENDED, to add footnotes manually by inserting a superscript number and typing the note at the bottom of the page. But this will NOT do what the automated footnoting system does:

  • automatically add sequential numbers
  • format the page so the text and footnote stay together
  • automatically renumber the footnotes if you move or delete or add one

So, don’t do that, now you know the correct way to do it!

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In this article we’ve learnt what a footnote is, what they look like, why you might use them, how to insert and delete them and the options available.

Related posts:

Some great notes on avid footnoters from the history of literature here.

On this blog:

How do I add endnotes to a Word document?

Changing footnotes to endnotes

How do I change the format of my endnotes and footnotes?

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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How do I decide who to work with?

dictionary coins watchWhen you’re new to your editing career – or any other freelance career for that matter, it’s tempting to rush around picking up every job you can. But it’s really worth evaluating the companies with whom you choose to work, from the very beginning. At the very least, you can avoid making yourself uncomfortable or making a small amount of money for a large amount of time. At the most extreme, you can avoid losing money, or even breaking the law! Read on for my hints and tips, and do add a comment if you can add any more!

Do conduct background checks

When a company contacts you to book your for a job, it’s easy to say yes without thinking. But it’s always good to do a few basic background checks.

  • If the company has found you through a professional organisation or website that has discussion boards or feedback mechanisms, check what other people have said about the company
  • Run a Google search for [company name] and phrases such as “bad payer”, “didn’t pay”, “don’t work with]
  • Ask your peers or any networks you’re in (on and offline) about whether they’ve worked with them before

I love it when a company approaches me via Proz, a jobs website I belong to, because members can see peer reviews of companies that are also members. The only time I’ve had a problem with a company that booked me through Proz was when I forgot to look at the “Blue board” and assumed they’d be OK.

Do check what they say on their website

This can tell you a lot about the company that wishes to book you. Is their website professional? Does it have terms and conditions? If it’s a middle man itself, does it seem to offer fair terms to its clients (and what’s the difference between what it charges its clients and what it’s offering to pay you – always interesting!).

You can also find massive red flags by doing this. This article was inspired by a friend, new to the editing business, who told me that they were doing tests for a company that offered student proofreading. When we had a look at their website, they were boasting that their rewriting service was able to bypass plagiarism-detecting software! Now, of course, it’s not ethical to rewrite student work – so we could see immediately that this was NOT a good company to work for. Which brings me nicely onto the next point …

(If you’re considering going into student editing / student proofreading via middlemen, it’s worth reading my Choosing a Proofreader: Student Edition article and using that to help you decide who to work with.)

Don’t do something that goes against your ethics – or the law!

Is it worth undermining your own ethics to make a bit of cash? I don’t think so, personally. One, you’re going to feel uncomfortable about what you’re doing, and two, it might come back and bite you later. I certainly wouldn’t want to work with the company I talk about in the above point, and I also wouldn’t want my name to be associated with any company I wouldn’t be proud to be associated with!

I’ve turned down jobs for companies that operate in areas I’m not personally comfortable with (someone writing a website in order to attract people in the sex industry to his professional services springs to mind), and I have certainly turned down work for SEO and linking farms, which I don’t agree with as a concept. I’ve never been asked by a company to write an essay for a client, but I know that I’d say no if I was asked. You can find articles by people who work for content farms, or write fake reviews of products for money, or write essays for people and feel they can justify it*, so it’s not black and white, but do stick with your own boundaries and don’t upset yourself by crossing them,

I have written text for marketing websites that I find to be a bit cheesy and I am not exactly hugely proud of. But they don’t tell any lies (and it was “white label” work, i.e. my name is not on it. Doesn’t mean I’d go against my ethics if my name wasn’t on something, though!).

Do go to the edge of your comfort zone; don’t cross out of it

I took on my first transcription job as a “why not?” kind of test – but I did have audio typing training, so I knew that the skills involved would be close to ones I already had (read more here about what happened next). I also once took on a job doing some audio recording for a website that needed an English accent. I didn’t really have the experience or equipment to do this, and although I did a decent job, I turned down further requests to do this kind of work. The return on investment and the professionalism of the job I was able to do didn’t match my expectations or requirements, so I ditched that idea.

So do push yourself a bit and move into new areas by all means, but don’t jump too far in one go.

Don’t do (too much) work for free

I will do a test for a company for free, but I won’t do more than one, small job for them for free. And I don’t do anything for free for a commercial company (I do do the odd bit for other start-ups or local small businesses, to help them out) nowadays.

Even if you do end up doing something “for free” for a company while you’re building your client base and establishing your reputation, make sure up front that they will supply you with a testimonial / reference with their name and company name that you can publish on your website if you do a good job for them. This does give you some sort of return for the work.

It’s also OK to do work for a ‘skills exchange’ – I wrote some marketing materials for someone who designed some graphics to use on this site. Don’t do too much of that, though, as the tax man can get quite interested in that sort of thing …

The main point is, you don’t want to end up labouring away at unpaid work and – heaven forbid- turning away paid work because you’ve got to get the project finished!

Do ask for recommendations

Hopefully you’ll have been building networks and contacts in your area of work. I have lots of colleagues who I can turn to for advice, and I have a few colleagues who are just starting out in full-time editing businesses. I’m happy to turn to them for holiday, sickness and I’m-too-busy-help cover, and I’ve also passed on some of my clients to them – as my client base has matured, I’ve had to move away from some of my clients who needed me to be able to drop everything to do work for them on a tight deadline, regularly, whereas someone starting out who might be a little less fully booked is ideal to take them on.

It’s always worth asking colleagues if they would like some holiday or sickness cover, or just establish mentoring kinds of relationships that will promote this kind of thing. Hopefully, the clients who your colleague passes to you will be decent payers and good clients (otherwise you might want to look at your choice of colleagues!) so you’re likely not to get burnt.

Do check your return on investment

When you’ve done some work for a new client, and they’ve (hopefully … eventually) paid you, then do take the time to monitor the project and check for return on investment. For example, I always think that a client who sends you several small jobs a month and always pays on time is better than one who sends you a few big jobs but always needs chasing for payment. How much time are you wasting on chasing for payment? Here’s how I tell if a client is worth working with again:

  • Were they decent and easy to deal with?
  • Did they communicate effectively with you?
  • Did they pay me on time? (the payment schedule might be a long one, but did they match it?)
  • Was the work interesting? (this can matter, although at the start and through your career, you will need to accept that sometimes it just isn’t!)
  • Am I proud to be associated with this work / client?

If you can answer yes, then they’re good at working with freelancers (see this article for more detail) and hopefully you’ve got yourself a regular client – try to keep hold of them and make sure you say thank you for their payment and express interest in working with them again.

If they …

  • Didn’t resolve any project teething problems in good time
  • Made you feel uncomfortable with what they asked you to do
  • Didn’t communicate with you and answer questions
  • Didn’t pay / paid late

… those are red flags and, even if you’re just starting out and you feel you’re desperate for clients, I’d have a good think about whether to work with them again.

Do listen to your gut feeling

On most of the occasions when I’ve had trouble with clients and have made a bad decision about working with one, I’ve found that I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t a good idea. If you get a gut feeling, by all means back it up with some of the ideas above, but do listen to it, and save yourself hassle and possibly heartbreak!

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When it comes down to it, we all want clients who:

  • Pay well and on time
  • Have interesting and regular work to do
  • Are likely to become regular clients

These tips and hints will hopefully help you to end up making good choices about the companies with which you work.

* Thanks to Linda Bates for alerting me to this article and this more recent one about why people work for essay writing companies. I wouldn’t do this, but it’s worth acknowledging that these things are a matter of personal preference. I do NOT recommend doing this, however!

Do share this article using the buttons below if you’ve found it interesting and useful, and do post a comment if you’ve got something to add!

More articles on careers can be found here.

Here are tips for how to turn that new customer into a regular customer.

What’s the best mix of customers to end up with?

How to make more money in your freelance business

When should I say no?

 

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Small business chat update – Alison Mead

SiliconBulletToday we’re catching up with Aly Mead of Silicon Bullet. She’s another original 2011 interviewee, and we last caught up with her on 11 August 2012  and her plans for the next year looks like this:I hope to have built up a great team around me in the Forever Living part of my business, whilst also enjoying my bookkeeping and networking to build up the IT side of our business“. I’ve watched Aly’s business grow and develop and think she’s doing really well, with a good variety of activities to keep her busy and growing every day. Let’s see what she thinks of the year’s progress …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I am not quite as far along as I thought I would be in a year’s time – but I am in a good place and have learned an awful lot.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I do have a team I am helping to build their own business as distributors for Forever Living, but we are all learning together that this business is a marathon and not a sprint, and we are learning and growing our businesses together. I am still enjoying my bookkeeping work and networking, and I am getting more of the Sage training work I enjoy most through my networking connections, building a name for myself as the go-to person for Sage software and building excellent working relationships with local IT suppliers who don’t have that expertise in-house. I seem to have the right mix of business to keep life busy and interesting.

My health has taken a turn for the better – the Aloe products I use have given me great energy and boosted my immune system, and I have learned to run in 2013 and took part in my first (super sprint) triathlon: my second is booked for September. Health and fitness are something I do make time for in my working day – and I am sure I work all the better for that.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learned to realise you can’t help everybody – some people don’t want to be helped! Focus on those who appreciate your assistance and move on from those who are not interested. Although you might think you have the perfect solution for somebody else – be it in IT or with the Forever Living Aloe products – you can only help those who want to be helped.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Just keep getting out there and talking to people to build your business. Networking is the thing that has brought me great friends, business contacts and new business ideas. Be friendly, supportive and helpful to all who you meet, and you will reap the rewards as they reciprocate towards you.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

By this time next year I really want to have been able to take a decent break from work, without needing to worry about business while I am gone!  My husband Paul never takes a break – and we work constantly and consistently – but it is not healthy to never switch off. We are saving for a big holiday next year.

Meanwhile with business it is much the same as we have been doing – onwards and upwards building up our contacts and my Forever team. I’m looking forward to growth in 2014.

You know what I love about my interviewees? How honest they are. I think this makes this series so valuable – do you agree? Many of us aim to be able to have a holiday where we can switch off from the business – I had my best ever this year, only quoting for one job the whole week I was away, and I hope that Aly gets her well-earned break in 2014! Health and exercise are so important when you work for yourself (I published a guest post about this recently myself) and it’s great to see fellow small business owners enjoying new sports and activities. I hope to see Aly doing even better by this time next year (with maybe an Ironman under her belt!?)

Find the Silicon Bullet website and blog online, and for the Forever Living side of things have a look at the Facebook page.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat

 

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Choosing a proofreader – student edition

track changesIf you’re starting an undergraduate, Master’s or PhD course and you think your writing in English might need some help, it’s a good idea to look for a reputable proofreader to help you. You might be using English as a second or other language, or have a different issue to deal with such as dyslexia or needing to use voice-recognition software. Your tutor or personal tutor might have recommended that you find someone to help you, or you might choose to try to improve things yourself. But how do you choose a reputable, genuine proofreader when there are so many companies and people out there? Here are some tips.

Be careful

The first thing I will say here is be careful. Obviously, all proofreading companies want to make money. But some of them do profit from students, in particular, not knowing what to look out for. I have heard a lot of horror stories in my time: students having their work “checked” when it’s just been run through a spell-checker, companies that don’t care about plagiarism, companies that will sell you an essay to use. Just like any other service or product, there are good and bad companies out there. Be just as careful as if you were buying a designer handbag or a car. After all, your academic mark and reputation might be at risk here.

Check with your tutor / university

Some tutors ask their students to get their work proofread, sometimes before they see it, sometimes afterwards. Universities often have policies on proofreading. For example, one university I work with has a form I must complete and sign each time I work with a PhD where I promise that I have only suggested changes in spelling, grammar, etc., and have not rewritten or otherwise changed the content of the work.

If a student comes to me and says their tutor has asked for their work to be substantially rewritten, I will ask for a scanned, signed letter on headed paper from the tutor to confirm that. So, if your tutor wants more than usual to be changed, get something in writing from them first.

Check the proofreader’s credentials

Any company or individual should state what their training and background is. A company should have a page about the kind of proofreaders that they use. An individual proofreader should have a page detailing their experience, qualifications and background.

It’s good for your proofreader to …

  • Have a degree
  • Have experience in your subject area
  • If you have a particular aspect of your language which needs to be addressed, e.g. working with voice-activated software or dyslexia, to  have experience with similar requirements
  • Be a native speaker of the language in which you are writing
  • Have a qualification from an official body (the Society for Editors and Proofreaders or the Publishing Training Centre in the UK) OR have extensive and documented experience

Check what service the proofreader offers

Check what the proofreader says that they will do – exactly.

Good things to look for:

  • Do they mention using Track Changes to mark up your work?
  • Do they mention making a note of any unclear areas?
  • Do they mention coaching students through a degree or Master’s?

Bad things to look out for:

  • Do they mention helping you to avoid getting caught for plagiarism (see section below)?
  • Do they say that they will rewrite your essay for you?
  • Do they say that you can buy an essay that someone else has written from them?
  • Do they mention compiling your bibliography for you?

These are all red flags: red for danger. If a company is offering to help you to plagiarise, avoid them. This will contravene your university’s regulations.

Ask for references and testimonials

A good proofreader / company will offer references and testimonials on their website.

Things to look out for:

  • References from people who are doing the same sort of thing as you (Master’s Dissertation, PhD, etc.)
  • References including full names rather than Mr D and Ms Y (note that not all of them will have the full name, but at least some should)
  • References should not all be identical. They should look like they were written by real people.

Check your proofreader’s policy on plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious offence. If you plagiarise and get caught, you could get kicked off your course. At the very least, if you get caught, you will lose marks. Even if you don’t get caught, plagiarism – passing off someone else’s work as your own – is unethical and wrong. If you plagiarise, you are also not learning what you should be learning from your course.

I found a student proofreading company the other day that boasted of rewriting students’ work so that they will not get caught by plagiarism software. This is a bad thing to do. I would advise you never to go near a company that offers such services.

Another student proofreading company, and the only one I work with myself, has FAQs on their website. These strictly state that you cannot expect them to write your essay for you or to paraphrase sections of your work that you have taken from other books or essays. This is a good thing to do and I would advise you to look for this kind of statement.

I have a statement on plagiarism in my Terms and Conditions. Other places you might find it are in the FAQs or Services or Notes. If you can’t find something on a proofreader’s website, ask them. If they don’t have a plagiarism policy, or they can’t tell you what their policy is, avoid using them.

Regarding bibliographies – your proofreader should not compile your bibliography for you. Putting together a bibliography is one of the central academic skills that you are being tested on when writing your dissertation or thesis. A proofreader will check that all of the relevant entries are there (if you ask them to) and will certainly check for commas out of place and the odd mistake, but they should not write or format it for you from scratch (see more on bibliographies here).

Check that the proofreader is asking a fair price

Many proofreading companies seem to ask for a very high price for their work. I’ve checked and this year prices from proofreading companies for working on a standard student essay, dissertation or thesis in the UK is around £6-£10 per 1,000 words. This increases if the work is urgent.

Individuals often charge a little less – say about £5-£10 per 1,000 words. They may charge by the hour instead.

This is a rough estimate based on searching across websites and should not be taken as anything except a loose guideline. Fees vary according to the location of the proofreader.

If someone is charging a lot less than this, do check their credentials very carefully. It is likely that the work is being outsourced to people who might not be skilled or have English as their first language.

If someone is charging a lot more than this, check what extras they are offering and whether this is worth the extra money.

Check who will be doing your work

This is very important if you’re planning on submitting more than one piece of work to the proofreader. Although the English language does have rules, personal preferences do also come in, and one proofreader may work on a text slightly differently from the next. Therefore, if you’re going to be submitting all of your Master’s coursework or your whole PhD but in separate chapters, it makes sense for the same person to deal with all of your documents.

This is more common with individual proofreaders. But a company will work with many proofreaders and may be able to offer this for you.

It can be very useful and rewarding to work with one proofreader throughout your course. They might be able to pick out certain mistakes you make and help you to work on those for the next essay. This may help you to write well and clearly in English independently of your proofreader in the end.

Book in good time

You should know at the beginning of an undergraduate or Master’s academic year when your main deadlines for the year are. If you’re doing a PhD, you should know soon when you will need to submit reports and updates, and you should schedule time for writing up.

Especially if you’ve been working with someone all year on your Master’s course, book in to have them proofread your dissertation as soon as you know the date. No proofreader minds being booked in advance – and most of us don’t mind if things slip a bit, as long as you keep us informed. But we’re all humans, and sometimes, if you leave it too late to book, we won’t be able to fit you in. That’s when panic sets in, and you might make a bad choice.

Note: If your favourite proofreader can’t book you in, they should be able to recommend other people to try. I always offer a list of alternatives out of courtesy if I can’t fit an enquirer in.

Individual proofreader or proofreading company?

You can use an individual proofreader or a proofreading company. They both have pros and cons:

An individual proofreader:

  • You can talk to them direct
  • They can guarantee to work on more than one document for you
  • They might get busy or ill and not be able to do your work or book you in

A company:

  • Should have enough proofreaders to ensure availability even at busy times
  • Might not be able to guarantee the same person to do every job for you
  • You are unlikely to be able to talk to the proofreader direct

I think you are more likely to find an ethical person among the individuals, but it’s always worth checking all of the points above.

My recommendations

As I’m fully booked at the time of writing this post (and heavily booked most of the time), you can see that I’ve written this post for you, the students, and not to get more work for myself!

I do offer a small list of personal recommendations. I cannot guarantee their availability, price or service, of course. You enter into a discussion with them at your own risk, and you can find them on my Links page. You can also use the SfEP directory to find someone to help you.

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In this article I have shared some tips on how students can choose a good and reputable proofreader.

If you’re a student, you might be interested in more posts for students on this website. Do click through and have a look. And best of luck with your studies!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Ethics, proofreading, Students, Word, Writing

 

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Guest posts 2: How to be the perfect guest

handshake

Getting guest posts published on other people’s blogs is generally considered to be A Good Thing. It can bring you new clicks, followers and even customers. But even if you’re being commissioned to write a blog post for someone else, there are some fairly unwritten rules that will help you to make it a success on both sides.

In this article, I share what makes a good guest blogger, from initial contact to thank yous and shares in ten top tips for being the perfect guest blog poster. I talk about being a good host here, by the way).

1. Do your homework

You’ve got a post you want to share and you think it’s a good guest post. Before you even contact the host to ask them to post it, do your homework. Check whether they have a guest post policy (I have one, and you can find a link to it on my main blog and in more detail on the Libro Full Time blog). Many busy bloggers will not even reply to you if you haven’t looked and noted any guidelines. I will give people a second chance if I have time – but not always!

Presumably you know the blog because you’ve been reading it already. Have a think about who the audience is. What sort of posts does this person publish? How does your prospective guest post fit in with them?

2. Pick your hosts wisely

Have a think about whether this person welcomes guest posts. Are they on your topic or are they specific interviews or on other subjects? Is this someone you’ve engaged with on a long-term basis? Have you liked, shared, commented on their posts for a few months already? If they know your name and where your expertise lies, they are more likely to welcome your guest post.

Note that common advice is to only guest post on blogs that are more popular than your own. You can look at their Alexa score and yours, for example, to see which is more popular. BUT, because part of my mission is to help other small businesses and colleagues, I’m happy to guest on smaller, newer blogs, like I did here and here, to help to promote them as well as myself.

3. Show that you’ve done your homework

When pitching to place a blog post cold, or when replying to a commission, make sure that the host knows that you’ve had a look at their blog, that you’re familiar with their style and content, that you have an idea who their readers are. Nothing annoys a blogger more than having a random person contact them saying “I have read your blog [on football] and I think this post [on nuclear physics] would fit really well, please post it and all my links as soon as possible”. Even super-polite old me doesn’t always reply to those ones!

4. Follow the guidelines

If a blog has guidelines for guest posts, like The Creative Penn does, for example, then do follow them! (These ones are very detailed because it’s a very popular blog with lots of guest posts, but as I said above, most people have them). In fact, if you can’t find any published guidelines, ask the blogger if they have any specifications as to the ideal length, angle, etc. Make your piece match these as closely as possible.

5. Don’t duplicate content

Google and other search engines do not like duplicated content. So make sure that any blog post you tout around is fresh, new content, not something that has appeared elsewhere or been pitched elsewhere. It’s fine to pitch the same post to several potential hosts as long as you do it in series not in parallel, i.e. you wait for the first rejection, then try the next blogger. Also see section 9 to avoid doing this on your own blog.

6. Help the host with the formatting

As we learnt in the last post on hosting guest posts, formatting text sent in by someone else can be a nightmare. If you really want to help your host, by all means write your post in Word so you can spell check it, etc., but then “save as” a plain text file with a .txt file (drop down the “save as” box when you’re saving and choose “plain text .txt”). Your host can then open the file in a text editor and paste it into their blog editor.

You can always send a Word version as well, so they can see any bold or italics or special formatting.

It goes without saying that you’ll spell check your post and – if necessary – have it checked by your proofreader first, doesn’t it?

7. Provide an author bio and links

To make it easy for your host, do provide a short author bio about yourself, and links to whatever it is you want to promote. I usually put together a few sentences on what I do and what I care about (this guest post by me has a good example which the host has altered slightly to fit her style and context) and then give the full URLs for the links, with an explanation of what they’re linking to. Some hosts will put the links under the text, some will put them next to the text, all should make them live.

8. Accept feedback and give feedback

Many bloggers who accept guest posts will want to tweak your article a little to make sure it fits their guidelines, style and readership. Please do accept this graciously – you’re playing round someone else’s house, so you do need to play by their rules.

I submitted one piece to a blog as a guest post, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. They came back to me with ideas for tweaks, but in the end I thought it was better to abandon that idea and do a whole new post for the other blogger. That was accepted immediately and proved popular with their readers. Not being one to waste some good text (and proving that it was fine as a blog post, just not as a guest post on that particular blog, I tweaked it to remove references to the original blogger and published it on my own blog!).

Once the piece has been published, have a look at it, and if there are any errors, do let the host know. Typical things to look for include spelling your name incorrectly and not putting live links on. If you spot anything like this, let them know right away and give them an opportunity to put it right. No one’s perfect, and I would certainly prefer my guests to let me know if there was a problem.

Related to this, though: don’t push. If you’ve submitted a request to guest and haven’t heard back, by all means drop one reminder or question a week or so later, but that’s it. For many bloggers, blogging isn’t their only job. Sometimes my blog has to come second to my paid work (I pre-write and auto-post, so even if it looks like I’m spending time on the blog every few days, I might not be!) and I’m sure other people are in that situation, too. Hassling will probably lead to a refusal!

9. Promote and share

Your guest post will build hits for and interest in both your host’s blog and products/services and yours. So get promoting and sharing on their behalf, since a hit on your guest post is likely to generate a click-through to your blog or other resource. I get a lot more hits on those posts that both my guests and I promote – AND because there are more hits, the click-throughs go up, too (this is particularly noticeable on my small business chats, when it can make a big difference). So you have a vested interest in promoting the blog on which you’re guesting.

One important point: don’t paste the whole of your guest post into your own blog. By all means write about it and link back to the original (this is a good example by one of my guests) but duplicating content over two different blog posts will make your content disappear down the search engine rankings very fast, as the search engines are suspicious of anything that looks like automated activity and will ignore two blocks of identical text.

10. Say thank you

It’s always nice to say thank you. So email the blogger who has hosted you and also put a public thank you out there on the social media. I’ve got a page on my blog where I list my own guest post requirements but also list all the guest posts I’ve placed – and that sends a few people over to my hosts every day.

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This post has talked about how to be a good guest blogger. If you enjoyed this post, please click some of the share buttons below or post a comment yourself – all are welcome! And if you have an idea for a guest post for this blog … do get in touch!

Related posts:

Guest posts 1: How to be the host(ess) with the most(est)

10 reasons to start a blog

10 reasons NOT to write a blog

Reciprocity and Social Media

Top 10 blogging sins

Scheduling blog posts and keeping going

 
9 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Blogging, Business, Social media, Writing

 

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