Five ways for editors to work smarter in 2015

John Pettigrew

This is a guest post from John Pettigrew, CEO of FutureProofs.

At the beginning of the year, we’re used to making resolutions – and failing to keep them! So here’s a short list of tips that might not be earth-shaking but that should help keep you on the right path professionally.

1. Get a proper email address

If you’re still using the email address your ISP gave you (like, give serious thought to buying your own domain. It’s much more professional to be!

It used to be tricky and expensive to do this, but you can now buy your own web address very cheaply from places like 1& (less than £2 for your first year). Most companies that sell domains will also handle your email for you, and you can carry on using the same software you use now.

The more confident might like to use a dedicated email provider like Fastmail. They cost a few pounds a year but give you a faster and more-reliable service than your ISP probably has!

(You are running a website from a proper domain, too, aren’t you?)

2. Talk to your clients/suppliers

This might seem obvious advice, but it’s easy just to muddle on from month to month and year to year. But this is a great time to have a conversation. Find out what skills your clients need – or what new skills your old suppliers can offer. Talk about what you will both need in the coming year, so that you can learn.

Because the most valuable thing an in-house editor is looking for in a freelancer (and the most difficult to get) is trust. Once you have a supplier you trust, you stick with them. So why not get the most out of that relationship? Don’t assume that people’s skills are static!

3. Review your workflow

We all tend to fall into patterns, so take the time to think about how you do things. In-house teams generally have more-complex workflows than freelancers, but everyone can benefit from taking a step back now and then.

It can be an intimidating process, but it’s basically very simple. Just think your way through a project or two (or each type of project), and write down every single action you take – including when you communicate with someone else.

Once you have this list, look for places where you’re wasting time (waiting for replies, tedious manual processes etc.) and look to see how you might be able to be more efficient.

One extra point for the in-house editors out there – please, please share your workflows with your freelancers. They might only be involved in part of the process, but it can be tremendously useful to know the context of your work.

4. Try out some new software

This is similar to the last point. We all keep using the tools we’re familiar with, but sometimes they’re not the best ones. In particular, we often follow the path of least resistance and use old tools for new jobs.

But the world of software changes quickly. Listen out to your colleagues or peer groups (for example, here on BookMachine, or the SfEP, or your local group). If someone mentions a new thing, give it a try. You might not find it useful this time, but you’re increasing your knowledge ready for that unusual job you might not have been able to do.

5. Learn HTML

There’s lots of talk about how publishing is changing and that digital’s the future. Actually, I think print has a great future! But it’s unarguable that digital formats will play a large part in our future. And the web is going to be one of them.

HTML is the language of the web, and it’s actually very simple – especially for editors! This is because it’s just text with tags, and we editors are used to looking at the structure of a piece of writing: headings, paragraphs, tables etc.

There are loads of great tutorials on the web to get started with HTML. Don’t be sidetracked by pretty WYSIWYG tools, though. You want to get to grips with the language itself, because that’s how you’ll learn the opportunities and limitations of the format.

There’s a fringe benefit, too, because by learning HTML, you’ll also be learning XML! In fact, HTML is just one variety of XML, and XML is making big inroads into many parts of publishing.

So there you go – five tips to help you work smarter in 2015. What are your top tips?

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