It’s been almost two years since School Proof was launched, and much longer than that since the two of us began working together to proofread school reports.
In that time, we’ve met up at events like the Society for Editors and Proofreaders annual conference to talk about certain aspects of our business. We’re also regularly in touch to discuss daily tasks such as promotional activities, responses to enquiries and – while we’re in the middle of a collaborative project – style decisions and technical points. But it’s also useful to meet in person for a longer chat to review how our editorial collaboration is going and what we want for its future.
As summer is a quiet time for our school clients and the new academic year is just around the corner, August seemed like the perfect time to do this. We decided to meet in Manchester’s northern quarter: both of us could get to the city centre by train and in the northern quarter you’re never too far from a nice café.
After a couple of postponements due to work commitments and logistical issues (specifically the Whaley Bridge dam problems, which led to railway and road closures), the day of our meeting finally arrived. We had plenty to discuss (not to mention plenty of cake to eat!) and in a few hours we’d reflected on many aspects of working together, made some firm plans for next year… and discovered an amazing fabric emporium. We came away with a plan of action, feeling inspired and refreshed by a day out in each other’s company.
It’s always useful to reflect on how your business is going and review your plans – but we’ve found that there are extra things to consider if you’re working in a team or partnership. Here are four main things it’s useful to review if, like us, you’re working with a team of other editors.
1. How are the processes working?
Taking inspiration from how other editorial collectives (such as Editing Globally) manage these practicalities, we’ve come up with systems that work for us and our clients. We use Slack to communicate with each other most of the time, because we can use multiple threads for conversations about each school’s reports, other joint projects, our business processes and our marketing activities. (We’ve also considered setting one up for recipes, as what’s for dinner is a recurring theme!) Using Slack also keeps all the School Proof conversations together, away from emails about our individual projects.
We tend to take turns to reply to enquiries, but once we’re working on a project, one of us takes the lead in liaising with the client. We’ve found that this makes things simpler for clients and for ourselves.
2. How are the marketing efforts going?
Although there’s plenty more we could do to market our school services, there’s a limit to the number of clients we can take on, as schools tend to have similar report schedules. Our strategy so far has been about attracting a few of the right clients, rather than lots of them, and maintaining a consistent presence. Time is short, so we try to focus our marketing efforts where they’ll have the biggest effect: word of mouth, social media (Twitter in particular) and blogging. We are a little behind with our blogging, so we decided that this is something we need to focus on.
3. What about the actual work?
For school reports, the turnaround time is often quite short, as schools are under pressure to write and send out reports quickly. Here, we tend to both work on the same project but split the files between us. For example, one of us will take half of the forms in a year group, while the other one takes the rest. This means we need to spend time communicating about style issues and other points to keep our proofreading consistent during each project, but it also allows us to turn the work around more quickly.
We also really enjoy this element of working together, and consider our conversations about the nuts and bolts of editing as part of our professional development.
4. Changes in future?
Although we set up School Proof to help schools who needed their student reports proofreading quickly, during that time we’ve also worked together on other projects – so we’re actively looking at more ways to work together. It makes sense for us to do this, as some of our specialisms overlap and we already have the processes in place to work together. Also, because our school clients tend to need our help at certain times of year, it helps to find other niches to fill the quieter months.
At the moment we’re quite happy with the size of our team. However, by promoting our schools service over the last couple of years we’ve discovered other proofreaders who have experience in working with schools. Because most schools need their reports proofreading at the same times of year, recruiting more proofreaders for those busy periods might be an option for the future.
Finally, we’re planning to make these reviews a more regular part of our professional relationship, meeting in person when we can and using tools like Zoom or Skype in between these longer meet-ups (though we’ll have to provide our own tea and cake!).
If you work in a collective with other editors, how do you keep in touch – both during joint projects and at other times when you need to review and plan? Do you have regular catch-up sessions, or is it more about discussing things when the need arises? And – perhaps most importantly – do appropriate refreshments figure in your arrangements (or is that just us)?