The small but mighty Communication Central conference for editing, proofreading, and writing freelancers was held on the last weekend of September. Unlike the massive American Copy Editors Society (ACES) conference that I wrote about in March, CommCen was attended by about fifty people, a small enough number for an ambitious networker to shake hands with everyone if she tried but large enough to collect a varied span of knowledge from editors and other freelancers with an impressive range of experience and focus areas.
I consider the 2013 CommCen to have been, if editors were debutantes, my personal “coming out” venue. I learned more in those three days (including Laura Poole’s excellent Editorial Boot Camp) than I had in the previous thirteen months of my muddling through the swampy novice editorial waters. It’s a terrific conference for anyone, but I would recommend it particularly to new editorial freelancers who don’t yet have a community of colleagues to learn from and who might feel intimidated at a large-scale meeting of an industrial organization. Here are my takeaways from the 2015 CommCen:
Don’t Let Your e-Files Run You (Paul Lagasse)
File organization needs to revolve around your needs, but the key is developing a system you can keep consistently. Lagasse used his own as a model to modify or use as inspiration, with two main areas of organization—documents and email—and three main stages—saving, backing up, and “disposition” (like deletion, but less permanent). Techniques include hierarchization, color coding, and “knowing your linchpin,” your main organizational variable, such as client or project.
How to Get—and Keep—Your Ideal Clients (Paula Tarnapol Whitacre)
This discussion-based session had participants reflect on past and current clients, consider what about each working experience we wanted more or less of in future jobs, and brainstorm how to find that type of work. Some observations made during the session: dealbreakers usually centered on the client, while dealmakers usually centered on material; maintain communication among editors—one person’s dealbreaker might be another’s dealmaker; the ideal client portfolio might be even better than the ideal client.
Rev Up Your Business with Referral Power (Jake Poinier)
Many freelancers are uncomfortable asking for referrals because it makes them feel desperate or because they’re afraid they’ll be turned down. This session was geared toward dispelling the fear and providing tools for asking for referrals in ways that are comfortable and effective. We also discussed the pros and cons of being a “referral-based busines,” effective use of social media for obtaining referrals, and common misconceptions about how clients will respond to your request for referrals.
Making Word Work for You, Not Against You (Geoff Hart)
The most immediately and directly practical session I attended, this presentation provided concrete tips on some of the more advanced Word features that editors will find useful, including how to find and use the less intuitive elements in Advanced Find and Replace, moving large pieces of material, taking full advantage of Word’s autocorrect, and a new reference cross-checking method. I used some of Hart’s suggestions in the very first project I worked on after the conference.
Working with Self Publishers (Katherine Pickett)
Self publishers are a growing segment of the book publishing industry, and they can be an excellent source of clients for freelancers; in 2012, 59% of self publishing authors used a freelance editor. Pickett discussed the most common demographics, genres, expectations, and levels of expertise of self publishing authors, as well as the types of services that editors can be expected to deliver. She provided a list of questions that editors can anticipate from prospective clients.
Build Your Own Career Resilience and Thrive (Kat Nagel)
This session focused on the capacity of resilience, a personal characteristic that allows one to adapt and survive unexpected downturns. Resilience involves developing a realistic understanding of oneself and one’s world, along with learning coping skills, creating a solid career framework, and connecting effectively with others. We discussed a variety of resilience-building strategies, from taking personal time every day to plan, recognize small wins, and connect with others, to making regular career assessments and strengthening relationships.
Editorial Bootcamp (Laura Poole)
I didn’t go to this post-conference seminar this year, but I went the first year I attended Communication Central. The day after the conference proper, Poole presents six hours of intensive skill training for new and newish copyeditors and anyone needing a refresher. The material is good for those who are comfortable with grammar, spelling, and punctuation but now need to learn how to apply this knowledge to the act and profession of editing.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.