Category Archives: Tips & advice

Online editing and digital skills for print subs

Fiona Cullinan presenting to attendees

Photo by Pete Ashton / ash10.com

I did a workshop!
On Saturday I delivered my first-ever workshop to a group of London-based freelance sub-editors. The framework was a practical walk-through of online editing using a content management system, with theory on SEO, tone, style, structure, length, linking, accessibility and user-friendliness. Some wider web editing skills were touched on – such as picture research and manipulation, video embeds and post-publishing work.

I’ve blogged about the workshop here: Helping print sub-editors go digital.

I’d also like to thank the Centre for Creative Collaboration for hosting us – it’s a great venue for project involving collaboration, creativity, innovation and freelance creatives.

Want to join in?
There may be a second run of the beginners workshop – although it may be a longer or two-part workshop to fit everything in. We’re also looking at putting together a follow-up session on work and how to get it. And perhaps something on the more techy side of things and the wider internet culture, as this is what Pete Ashton is the bee’s knees at teaching. So if any subs out there are interested in any of these options, please get in touch – I’m at fionacullinan@hotmail.com

Online sub-editing slideshow
Meanwhile, here are my slides from Saturday’s workshop. They’re pretty much notes without the talk-through or the practical CMS/workshop stuff – but you get the idea:

Going freelance: an editor’s guide to working for yourself

While this blog is predominantly for and about sub-editors in journalism, my second guest blogger is interesting because she applies her writing and editing skills in a much broader range of markets. Liz Broomfield set up LibroEditing, a proof-reading, editing and writing business in 2009. Here she passes on some hard-earned advice on going freelance to anyone thinking of taking the plunge.

Liz Broomfield.jpgTwo years ago, I decided to set up my own business offering (initially) proofreading and editing services based in the UK. While I’m not an expert on the business side, I have been through those beginning stages, the launch phase and how it works once you’ve started. Here’s what I’ve learnt…

1. BEFORE YOU START
There are quite a few things to ask yourself before you launch a freelance career, for example:

• Do I have useful skills people are prepared to pay for? If you’re already an editor, then yes, you may well have. I had done a fair bit of editing and writing in various jobs, but it didn’t strike me how many different things I could offer until I was running the business. I could have offered more from the start.

• Is there a market for my particular skills, and can I access it? Do you have contacts or colleagues who can help you find freelance work? Think about specialist skills you might have; for example, I have experience working for the UK office of an American company, so I’m able to offer localisation services changing US into UK English and vice versa.

• Can I work from home in isolation? Are you a self-starter who can motivate yourself? If you need people around you, co-working spaces might be an option.

• Can the rest of my life take it? This is really important if you’re thinking of starting your own business while still working. I’ve done that, and there have been times when I’ve had so much of my own work that I’ve had to put off friends, tell my partner he can sit quietly in the corner of my study if he wants to spend time with me, and give up reading for pleasure. Can your social and family life take this?

2. GETTING SET UP
Once you’ve decided to set up on your own, consider the following:

• Online presence. Buy a suitable domain name and set up a web page and email addresses using it. You’ll look more professional and it’s a place to market your work.

• Keeping records. Go on the HMRC course “Becoming self-employed” (or find information in your local library). This will tell you what records to keep so you can do your tax return.

• Register as self-employed. You have to register with HMRC within a certain period after you start working and being paid for it. Phone them up or look on the website – I have found their staff to be really nice and helpful.

• Certificate of Small Earnings Exception. This allows you to earn a certain amount before paying National Insurance and tax so it can be worth registering for this if your freelance income is likely to be minimal at first.

• Business cards. At first you can use somewhere inexpensive like Vistaprint but it’s important to have something to give out to potential clients.

3. ONCE YOU’RE WORKING FOR YOURSELF
If you’ve made it this far, here are my tips for staying on track.

• Prioritising your time is key. Make sure you have time for work, other people and yourself. If you work all hours, you’ll run yourself into the ground. And if you are likely to end up doing lots of little projects…

• Organise your work. I set up a Gantt chart on a spreadsheet – clients down, dates along; then colour in dates that projects are booked in for, when they arrive, when you’ve invoiced, when they’ve been paid.

• Efficient invoicing. Make sure you invoice clients right away after you’ve done the job. Or before, if you work that way round. There’s software you can buy, or you can just set up a Word template.

• Use good tools. Make sure you have up-to-date and legitimate versions of the software you need: Word, InDesign, etc. If you will be editing PDFs, there are free downloads of software that will let you annotate them. If you do transcriptions, again, you can find free software.

• Work for your clients, not yourself. My student customers need me to show edits using Word’s ‘track changes’ function, which enables them to make the decisions on what to change and also means I’m not writing their work for them. Not all clients want this; others just want me to rewrite and send it back to them. Offer them choices but be prepared to make recommendations, too.

• Be flexible and open. I started off as an editor and proofreader. Now I’m also a transcriber, copy typist, writer and localiser. More income streams equals more work.

• Network widely. Try to connect with your peers in the business and other freelancers who work from home, as well as businesspeople in your area. Twitter and Facebook are your friends for finding out what’s going on and networking gets you out of the house and meeting people.

• Know when to outsource. If a task is going to take longer in terms of hours and cost more in terms of work you have to turn down, outsource it. Could someone else transcribe your interview recordings or research, or do your bookkeeping each month, for example?

I hope you find this advice useful. It’s certainly helped me find my way into a happy and rewarding new career, and as someone who didn’t think she was a natural entrepreneur, going freelance has given me more confidence and a wider skill set.

Liz Broomfield runs LibroEditing, a proof-reading, editing and writing business based in Birmingham, UK. For more information see www.libroediting.com or email her at liz@libroediting.com – she also offers transcription and typing services.

ends

Why live blogging and curation offer a renaissance for subs and their art

Last week I discovered Andy Bull on Twitter. Andy is a former national newspaper journalist who went on to become editorial director of AOL UK and editor of The Times Online. Now a multimedia trainer, he’s been trying out the recent rack of curation tools to tell a story (here he is on Scoop.It; here I am on Bundlr).

Further conversations led me to ask Andy to write Subs’ Standards’ first guest blog. It’s a great read and will hopefully inspire sub-editors who are in transition from print. If this is you, or you are digital subbing already, or you’d like to guest-post, please get in contact via comments or email me at fionacullinan at hotmail dot com.

Andy Bull

Andy Bull, multimedia journalist and trainer

There weren’t many pleasures working for the Daily Mail.

One was to see the splash sub at work on the night of a very big story: the sort that turned from 1 to 2, 3, 4 and 5.

To see the many ingredients being fed to him, and those items diced, sliced and fed into the sort of seamless read-through of a big and complex story that the Mail excels at, was a joy. Or what passed for joy in that torture chamber.

That skill came to mind when I was working on tuition on Curation and Live Blogging for my training book and website, Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide.

Curation is getting a lot of attention these days, as is live blogging. Guardian.co.uk’s live blogs won it 3.6 million new unique users last month [March 2011].

Yet while curation and live blogging are seen by some as new skills, and ones particularly suited to the new ways of reporting being developed for the web, it strikes me that they are infact very well-established skills indeed.

The sort of skills that any good sub has in spades.

Generally, the move to online news has not been kind to the art of sub-editing. It’s often considered an expendable link in the chain from reporter to (web) page. I don’t happen to agree with that, and I have the many typos on my website to support my view.

But I do think curation and live blogging offer great prospects for sub-editors. After all, what they involve is, rather than a lot of direct reporting, the selection, editing and mashing up of all sorts of inputs, from both professional and citizen journalists – or what I prefer to call eye-witnesses.

Any good sub can excel at these, and I believe subs should seize the opportunities offered by such developments in online media to underline their usefulness and carve out a redefined role for themselves.

To re-brand yourself from sub to curator and live blogger might even make management see you in a new light.

Footnote: Andy Bull offers an e-learning conversion course for print journalists, which gives practical experience in applying traditional skills to the new multimedia and mobile publishing platforms. You’ll find the details here.

Starter kit: how to blog for your company

Here are the quick links to my Blogger’s Style Guide. This is the ‘how-to’ that I give to my company bloggers when they start writing posts for their employer’s blog. It acts as a support document for those who know their subject well, but know little about blog writing or publishing in general.

The Blogger’s Style Guide

  1. How is blogging different?
  2. What readers like / ideas for your posts
  3. How to structure long posts
  4. Short or long?
  5. What does SEO mean for writers?
  6. Links are good!
  7. Five tips on tone
  8. Comments and feedback
  9. Writing a good title
  10. Don’t fall foul of your boss – or the law!

Blogger’s style guide: Don’t fall foul of your boss – or the law!

Whatever you are writing about – whether it’s offering niche expertise and explanation, an engaging anecdote on something that happened in your business this week, a review of a new product, etc – it is good to be aware that your post is going to be published and archived.

Which means it’s important to be aware of company blogging guidelines – even if you have a blog of your own where you might mention your employer.

Many companies have a Corporate Blogging Employee Policy, where you can read legal guidelines and best practice, so make sure you are given these or ask for a copy of them as they are there to help you blog.

As a quick guide

  • be honest and transparent without revealing company secrets
  • be accurate and attribute any quoted facts and figures back to the source
  • be respectful of others and underline where your post represents your own view

Finally, one quick way to protect yourself and the company is this great advice (I’m not sure who said it first): ‘Never say anything you wouldn’t be happy to say in front of your mother or your bank manager.’

Happy blogging!

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: Writing a good title

  1. Make the title or headline of your post specific – it lets your reader know what to expect BEFORE they click.
  2. Don’t promise something you are not going to deliver as this will result in a broken experience and an annoyed reader.
  3. Resist the hilarious pun – it most likely won’t make any sense out of context.
  4. Include both first and last names if a person is the subject of your post – this is better for SEO (see  previous post on  SEO for writers).
  5. Think mobile. Many people now read content on their phone or in an RSS reader, so they may only see the first few words (40-60 characters). Based on that, they will decide whether to click through and read on – or not. The trick is to be plain, include your keyword/s and also be as enticing as possible, which is not that easy. Oh and don’t write a headline that is dependent on an accompanying image/video – these don’t always appear on portable devices.

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]

Blogger’s style guide: Comments and feedback

Feel free to invite a response, ask for help or even not fully complete your thoughts on a post. This encourages people to respond; after all, this is a conversational not a broadcast medium. However, don’t worry if your posts are NOT getting replies, as 90% of internet users are passive readers who read without commenting.

It can be handy to have your own community of followers on Twitter/Facebook/etc so you can announce that you have a new blog post up – commenters are people who are interested in either the subject or you as a blogger.

Also, be reassured that company blogs are usually pre- or post-moderated for spam, rude responses or other comments breaching trade or company rules. Responses where people disagree, however, are generally seen as part of the conversation and offer great opportunities to respond, learn or even develop fresh blog post ideas.

[FYI: Last year I wrote a Blogger’s Style Guide to help people in the organisations I was working for start writing posts and publishing them on the company blog. Many had never written anything beyond an email before but they did know their subject far better than I, so they just needed a good briefing in style, tone, structure and so on. This is that starter kit for company bloggers, consisting of  10 mini-posts in all.]