Becoming the Editor You Already Are: Hitting Control–Option–Shift on Your Career


This is guest post by Virginia Durksen. Virginia provides training and editing services through her company, Visible Ink. She offers two-day workshops—Writing @ Work and Editing @ Work—to clients across western Canada. Between workshops, Virginia takes on editing projects for select clients.

We all need to move to the next level in our profession. One obvious step is to apply for editing jobs with higher salaries and more responsibilities. But not all editors are suited to climbing a corporate ladder.

For the freelance editors and business owners among us, there are other ways to move to the next level.

Control your pace

An increase in hourly fees is a terrific way to give yourself a promotion that recognizes your level of experience. But the freelance editor’s problem is often just as much with the pace of editing as with the rate of pay.

We should all have valid data on our pace of editing. Even if our pace is within industry standards, at some point we should challenge ourselves to simply speed up the process. If you currently proofread documents at a pace of 10 pages an hour, work deliberately to increase that pace to 12 or 15 pages an hour. When working at this new pace, don’t forget to base your fees on the old pace.

Pursue new options

It’s a cliché that we pursue new options when we hit a mid-life crisis of any sort. That’s because new options give us a fresh perspective on our careers (or lives) and our own role in them.

After a number of years in the industry, we are all likely to have favourite clients and favourite types of editing projects. But all business is cyclical. At some point, your best contacts at your regular clients will all retire. Or they will stop writing the paper-based manuals you could probably edit in your sleep.

New options can be as simple as adding three new clients or types of documents to your roster. Finding new clients might require a new marketing strategy. Maybe you want to share what you know with beginners and wannabe editors? Perhaps it’s time to teach a grammar course at a local college.

Shift out of lowercase

Some of the most contented and successful editors I know are those who focus on doing one type of editing for one type of client. Their skills and their client relationships have real depth.

But most of us don’t simply start in that place and stay in it. We have to find it first, by working our way through various types of editing projects and applying our skills to various types of documents. A mid-career shift can arise from that moment when we stop sampling our way through the levels and types of professional editing and decide to play to our strengths. When we shift out of lowercase, we give ourselves permission to find satisfaction in doing what we do best and leaving the other parts of the project in another editor’s capable hands.

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