Katherine (also known as Kathy) has had a highly varied career spanning the last 37 years, often changing industries as a matter or circumstances, but she is now more determined than ever to dictate her own career path and become a ‘master’ in the art of editing and proofreading. 

Kathy originally wanted to work as a research pharmacologist. She read Biochemistry and Pharmacology at BSc level and followed that up as a research associate at University College, London University, where she also attained her PhD. Along the way she worked in a variety of laboratories, both commercial and academic, but although her love of the research was as strong as ever, an array of allergic responses sent her into the desk-bound side of the industry.

Trying to find some work that interested her sufficiently to make a career of it, she dabbled for years in a variety of pharmaceutical industry roles from data management, to market research – both quantitative and qualitative, and even ventured into business-to-business marketing for several years. Each time gaining some of the preliminary qualifications, before realising that the nature of the work did not appeal. She often laughs at herself, saying that it’s the study she enjoys more than the actual work!

Eventually, Kathy realised that she was not cut out to work in large, commercial companies and just as she was looking to move on, her job became redundant due to (another) company restructure. Instead of feeling defeated, Kathy used her redundancy pay to re-invent herself.

At the age of 40, she stepped out of her (scientific) comfort zone and instead qualified as a Personal Fitness Trainer, Nutritional Adviser and Sport’s Therapist. Her husband and she took the opportunity at that time to emigrate from the UK, and based on an entrepreneurial visa they arrived in New Zealand to set up a gym, before the massive proliferation of gyms occurred. Whilst Kathy loved Personal Training, and thought of the gym as ‘her baby’ having constructed the business from scratch and developing the business over five years, the nature of the business meant she was often putting in 16-hour days and 80-hour weeks. The opportunity came to sell the business, so she did, with very mixed feelings. Kathy carried on Personal Training, working independently, but based at another gym, until she decided that perhaps the job was better suited to someone younger. As her age increased, so did her injuries. It was time to move on.

Finding herself once again, looking all around at what she could do professionally, Kathy saw an advertisement from NZIBS for Proofreading and Editing. This was something that intrigued her and that she could work at in a freelance capacity; and that she could do into her retirement. Careful research around both location based and online courses, here and in the UK, assured her that the course offered by NZIBS compared favourably with others, and followed a format that appealed to her.

Based in Christchurch, the alternative courses that she could physically attend were not focussed on proofreading and editing, but rather limited to being parts of Bachelor degrees in either media studies or journalism — neither of which were of interest.

As far as online courses were concerned, the two main contenders were The Learning Cloud, based in New Zealand and courses provided by the Society for Editing and Proofreading (SfEP) in the UK. Both of those were slightly more expensive, but Kathy’s choice was primarily made in favour of NZIBS because the two alternative online courses were modular, with no guarantee that you would have the same tutor for each course. She felt that although one could ‘pick and mix’ the courses, she would not have the opportunity to build a rapport with her tutor, and the temptation to veer off course or in the wrong direction entirely was too strong. The NZIBS course set out the twelve chapters at the beginning so you knew where you were heading, and provided a strong structure for developing your knowledge. Kathy’s concern with the other online courses is that she might end up with certificates in ‘this and that’ without a whole qualification to her name.

Fortunately for Kathy, she found the studying relatively easy as she was not pressured for time (having stopped work six months earlier) and only had herself and her husband to take care of. This meant she had the time to follow all the little side-tracks for researching beyond the actual lesson plans, both on the internet and down at the library. Whenever she became a little side-tracked her tutor would soon put her right, with helpful comments and corrections on her assignments, and a very helpful one-to-one telephone conversation when it was required.

Kathy found that using the student forum was interesting and helpful; as suggested when signing up with NZIBS, she read and participated in all the forums, not just the one set up for the Proofreaders and Editors. One of the aspects of reading other students’ forums that really helped, was finding that some of the Fiction students were brave enough to offer the Proofreading students the opportunity to exercise their skills on the manuscripts the Fiction writers created during their own course.

Kathy grabbed the offers on two occasions. First for Nikki Crutchley, who had previously also undertaken the Proofreading and Editing course, and who now, as a Fiction student had written an exciting murder-mystery in a sleepy, coastal community on the North Island, and subsequently for Robyn Welsh who was showcased in the July 2017 newsletter, who wrote and published a delightful story based in a farming community of South Canterbury. Both students wrote flattering testimonials for Kathy which she subsequently used in her marketing after her graduation.

She loved every minute of the course and is very enthusiastic about her future career. Although Kathy found that like so many others, getting started as a freelancer is hard, the testimonials and the friendly support from those fellow students have definitely helped her. She won her first paying contract within a couple of months of graduating and was so excited, she shared her good fortune on the students’, and graduates’, forum. One student on the forum recently asked her what type of marketing had she done to win the commercial contract. Her response was a list of many activities, but primarily they fell into four types of marketing:

  • Online marketing: website (writeorwrong.co.nz); Facebook page (‘Write or Wrong? – editing and proofreading’); and freelance listing sites (Writer’s Boon and Upwork).
  • Online networking and continual learning from other editors: LinkedIn profile update and joining of editorial groups; SfEP, joined and active participant in their forum – including keeping up with their MarketPlace (a forum where other member editors offload work they no longer have capacity for); and she’s just started a Twitter account (@KathySwailes); and Facebook groups for writers and editors.
  • Direct marketing: identifying publishers and other potential clients and writing emails ‘on spec’ with her updated résumé
  • Indirect marketing — ‘splatter’ effect: where she made up business cards and A6 flyers and passed them on to friends, businesses that she walked in on, and anyone or anywhere she could find to post and/or leave them with.

Happily ever after? Whilst carrying out the work on her first contract, she confided in her husband that she had never enjoyed ‘working’ as much as when carrying out this first project as a proofreader and copy editor. Long may it last!