2019 Round-Up: Leaving the Academy, Becoming a Full-Time Editor and Translator!

2019 has been a bit scary, challenging, but most of all exciting. I have lived in three countries (Croatia, Germany, the UK), moved between three industries (academia, teaching English for academic purposes, translation/editing) and lived in five cities (Manchester, Southampton, Regensburg, Zagreb, Pula). Having now returned to Manchester more permanently, 2020 should be a little calmer!

At the end of 2018 I made the decision to move out of the academic sector and into publishing (editing/translating). Back then I was employed in Germany in a part-time research position, running my editing and translation business on the side. The business had been growing year on year and I felt ready to switch to full-time. Looking back, I feel much better for having left the academy – the most difficult part in making the decision was a sense that there was no going back. In the end, there was a strong complementarity and much of the academic editing work I now do comes from people in my former academic network.

As my academic employment ended in July, for the first six months of 2019 I refocused my energies and invested in making my business workflow and services provided more professional. How did I do this exactly?

January – July: Professionalization

I started by investing in software I saw as essential for my business (e.g. SDL Trados for translation, PerfectIt and the The Editors’ Toolkit for editing), joined a professional editing association (the UK-based SfEP) and started my training. Getting stuck into the SfEP forums helped me immensely. As I started to become part of an online editing community, I felt much more comfortable with the different kinds of dashes, punctuation and debates over grammar issues such as over “that or which”, and so on.

I changed the format of my academic website to a professional business website. Looking at other people’s sites and LinkedIn profiles was really useful here. My editing skills also increased significantly over this period. I started off by trying the SfEP’s “taster” courses – Proofreading 1 and Copyediting 1. I learnt how to write a project brief here. I believe my earlier counselling training in transactional analysis helped me with how to deal with clients – often by email. I chose to focus on gaining intermediate SfEP status and on doing as much training as possible.

I was thrilled to become an intermediate member in the early summer and then took some more specific skills-related courses. The Editing in Word course took my skills to a new level and opened up MS Word to me in a new and exciting way as I love looking for ways of solving problems creatively, and each text I received for editing posed new problems.

August – December: Going Full-Time, Finding Clients

As the summer approached, I began to get more nervous about the move to full-time self-employment, as well as the challenge of relocating my business from Germany to the UK. In the end, this was fairly smooth. I registered for, and learnt extensively (!) about VAT as several of my business clients in Europe stated the necessity of a VAT number for doing business with them. As VAT can get complicated, I invested in FreeAgent accounting software, which has been a massive help – especially as I deal in multiple currencies. I had a summer job teaching academic English at the University of Southampton, which cushioned my arrival back in the UK both emotionally and financially.

One really useful resource, connected with my former employment, was business coaching organized by the Leibnitz Association. Roughly once a month, (in German), I had a Skype meeting at which I discussed my business’s needs and where to focus my energy.

From September, the business was my only source of income! The first two months were fairly quiet and my main business focus was on finding work. I learnt more about online marketing and chose to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn professionally. Then the workload rapidly increased – by the end of November I was booked up for all of December and most of January! I also excitedly joined the SfEP social media team, helping with Twitter. This gave me a welcome break from the solitary work of editing and the feeling of being part of a team.

And that is it for 2019!

The final question, then, is where to next?

Bring on 2020!

Over the next few months, I plan to work on expanding my UK client base – this is important so I am less at the whim of currency fluctuations in these uncertain times. I have decided to join the SfEP Manchester local group and will attend the 2020 SfEP and MET conferences in Milton Keynes (SfEP) and San Sebastián (MET).

In terms of training, I intend to finish the PTC Basic Proofreading course I have just started, and improve my Trados skills by taking their certification course. I also plan to further improve my legal translation skills.

At this stage I am still experimenting – I enjoy doing a mixture of editing and translation. While I mostly do academic editing and translation, I am also enjoying exploring other fields, including legal and business-related projects, and hopefully editing fiction in a few years’ time. Here’s to 2020, whatever comes next!