Sarah completed a degree in English and US literature at the University of Essex. She now works as a freelance proofreader and editor.
I chose this career because I have always loved reading and the written word. I am naturally a very meticulous person and have always had a good eye for mistakes in text. I liked the idea of receiving something that was poorly written and being able to improve it.
My degree introduced me to a wide range of texts and different styles of writing and developed my love of literature. After completing my degree, I began contacting various charities and non-profit organisations to offer to proofread some of their publications on a voluntary basis, and I was surprised by their enthusiasm. I undertook this work in the evenings and at weekends, alongside a full-time job.
Once I had gained some experience, I emailed several editorial agencies for freelance work and, subsequently, a few of them started sending me student dissertations that required proofreading. I worked on a wide variety of subjects and learnt how to read extremely technical language, and this experience really increased my confidence in the editing process. I then started to advertise my services and was gradually able to establish a larger client base.
In this job, I carry out proofreading and editing either on-screen using track changes in Word or on hard copy using the standard proofreading symbols. I work with overseas students to ensure their dissertations are fluent and have no inaccuracies caused by language difficulties. I also work with authors of children's books, adult fiction, poetry and non-fiction, as well as various small publishers and other businesses. I deal with clients mainly by email but also often speak to them by phone if this is useful for that particular assignment.
I love the fact that I am my own boss and have complete control over what work I take on. I also like liaising with clients and establishing a working relationship with them. You get a real sense of achievement when you've had a significant input in a book, which will hopefully then end up in a bookshop. I love my job; however, it is not for everyone. If you like the stability of a Monday to Friday, nine to five job, freelance work is probably not for you. I often get calls from clients in the evenings or at weekends and sometimes have to work unsociable hours to meet a deadline.
In the future, I would consider progressing my career by setting up a small editorial agency of my own. But that's a long way off, and right now I enjoy having the sole responsibility for all of my clients' work.
For anyone looking to start out in this career, I'd say it is important to be willing to work for nothing initially. This allows you to build up a portfolio of clients and experience, which will help to develop your CV. The fact that you've done the work for free will show prospective employers that you're committed to this career choice.
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