For background, I am a lawyer and have decided to change career. One recurrent possibility I keep coming back to is editing/proofreading. Being a lawyer I spent a huge amount of time proofing, editing etc documents and I believe I might have some transferrable skills. I am thinking of doing an introductory course with the sfep and carrying out a bit more research but I was wondering whether there were any editors proofreaders about with any advice which they might thing is relevant eg: is it a good career to get into? Is it difficult to get into? Do you get good job satisfaction? Do you need a degree in publishing? Any courses which are helpful to do? Any tips.
Any info at all would really be appreciated to help me assess whether it might be a viable possibility as I don't know anyone in this line of work in the "real world".
Legal proofreading is a thing as far as I know and if you have a background that might make you stand out from the rest. The main thing would be if you could use your contacts from your career to have a steady stream of documents etc to proof. If you have that, an SfEP course/accreditation may not be necessary. IMVLE, some one more connected to the legal side will hopefully come along with better info!
You'd be very sought after as a legal proofreader.
General "trade" publishing e.g. all the books you see in bookshops is difficult to get into unless you have previously worked for a publisher. But if you have a specialty - in your case law - then you can have a very profitable career editing and proofreading in your field.
If you're in London, or would travel, the Publishing Training Centre run very well respected courses and are industry approved. SfEP also great for establishing yourself.
I work in academic publishing - journals and stuff. We do employ proofreaders and copyeditors but often on a freelance basis. In the academic world pay is generally pretty low but that may not be an issue for you. I wouldn't say a degree in publishing is needed but you should probably do a reasonable proofreading and copyediting course. These days it's often on pdf etc so if you're not used to that then have a go.
We do some law journals so that might be a way in, or contact publishers of legal textbooks etc and ask about what they do.
Sorry - to answer job satisfaction queries. I don't freelance currently but have done in the past.
Very flexible, I enjoy it, though it can get a bit boring some days - like any home-based self employment you need to be able to motivate yourself, and deal with the downturns in work (and cash flow!) when they come up. Very often you won't get much of a feedback loop - if you're getting repeat business you're doing well but no one will explicitly praise you on a regular basis!
Keeping contacts by being lovely to deal with, being organised, reliable and never missing a deadline is more important than being the best and most thorough editor. You need to be accurate but sensitive to authors, and get the job done in the time available.
It's not well paid - if you're a lawyer it's going to be a big shock in income terms.
I'm an ex corporate lawyer, and I now do specialist legal editing (was employed, now freelance of my own volition!).
My recommendation would be to go for the specialist legal end of editing, as this will increase your earning potential substantially. If you are already pretty literate, you won't necessarily need any additional formal training.
I'd suggest having a look at the Lexis Nexis and Thomson Reuters law services, as they are often recruiting experienced lawyers to perform a kind of PSL/editorial role, and are also often on the look-out for editors. That will use your experience way better than retraining as an editor, and will maximise your earning potential, as those roles pay closer to lawyer levels (but with way better quality of life, in my experience!).
PS - I'm conscious the lack of apostrophe in my new username belies my editorial credibility somewhat, but I wasn't allowed one
Wow thank you for all the replies.
I am aware that there will be a big difference in income but I am hoping to be able to work from home. At the moment I spend such a fortune on childcare that if I removed that aspect and was able to work around school hours, it would be very manageable. I am also hoping the upside would be that I would be a lot less stressed and spend more time with the kids which is priceless. I don't need a LOT of money, just "enough". I wonder if I am being supra naïve.
I am not sure I want to go into legal publishing although I guess it might be an option. Same for legal translations (fluent French). I think Nexis Lexis and Thomson tends to have full time roles though whereas I was hoping to get more flexibility.
Part of my is wondering if I am kidding myself and it will all turn into a nightmare but I have this lovely (and probably completely unrealistic idea) of a quiet life, reviewing my documents at home during school hours. Not having to deal with aggressive people anymore.
Is it really really hard to make a name/leaving in proofreading/editing?
I will look at the Publishing Training Centre as I am about 45 mns from London.
Davidbyrne apostrophe forgiven!! Do you work for one of the big legal publishers or do you get other work too?
I work freelance exclusively for one of the big ones (cagey ), having been employed by them before. I work across a couple of products for them.
FWIW, it was very very normal when I was employed there for folks to be working part-time even from the get-go, and a lot of flexible working, working from home etc. It's grown a lot since I was there, so may be less flexible now, but certainly full-time as the norm was not my experience. It was a haven for experienced female lawyers looking for a less crazy existence!
PS not naive in your thinking; it's bliss to have the availability for the kids, and you sound as if you could well manage to make it work.
PM me if you want any further info... happy to help!
Sorry to gatecrash your thread OP but I am thinking of doing something similar, as an accountant rather than a lawyer. Have no idea whether there is any demand as obviously it is quite different from legal document reading. I'm a chartered accountant with audit, statutory accounts, financial control and commercial finance experience. Do any of you know whether there is any demand for this with my skill set?
I do think you may be being a touch naive, OP. Fair enough if you don't want to do legal-based work, but that is your specialty and where you'll most easily find work to get you started.
I have advised a lot of freelances and seen hundreds upon hundreds of CVs and speculative enquiries from potential freelances who want to get work. In almost all cases, unless the person had a particular skill I was short of - a fluent French speaker, a keen interest and knowledge of ornithology, an architect etc and it fitted with a particular book I had to work on at that time or in the near future, then I wouldn't rush to trial them. Taking on new freelances is a gamble, as often you need to supply more support etc and so an extra load. Schedules are short, and publishing has loads of ex-employees of the big houses who've worked with those authors before, or you know personally etc who've also all left to freelance and get the school hours flexibility. So yes, I think it is hard to break into if you don't want to use your existing skill base as a starting point.
But if you started from the basis of law publishing, you could expand to offer more subjects you're interested in alongside that as you build a client base.
But if you're imagining proofreading novels or editing non-fiction on more general subjects, then yes, it's hard to break into.
@Theknittinggorilla I don't know much about accountancy, but think of all the publications that are industry-specific, and the study aids you used, or websites that cater to accountants - there must be lots? So that would be your starting point, researching the publishers you might target. Again, you can branch out more once you have proved yourself in one field.
David thank you so much for being so positive/encouraging. I really wondered if I was being a complete fruitcake but you are giving me hope.
Squirrel no I wasn't particularly thinking novels. More commercial stuff and blogs etc but I get your point that the transfer would be easier based on my existing skills. And thank you for the honesty, I certainly need that.
lifeistooshort my pleasure - I never get to do any mentoring
I do think Squirrel is spot on about capitalising on your existing expertise, at least initially - it'll be easier to get work, and will likely pay more, so win/win really.
There is certainly a demand for editors with legal experience! And legal editing tends to be relatively well paid (not necessarily compared to bring a lawyer).
You will need proofreading training, though - sfep and the publishing centre both run good courses. The latter's introduction to proofreading online course will qualify you to call yourself a proofreader.
I'd also recommend joining the SfEP. It has online forums where you can ask anything, it runs local groups, and joining means you can meet other editors and get an answer to any question - about running your isn business, marketing, etc. It's invaluable.
Blogs and commercial stuff usually isn't properly edited or proofed. Blogs in particular aren't - that's why most of them are so poor.
To be blunt, you would be mad to ignore your speciality, at least in the beginning. I do corporate copywriting in my niche for around £350 -- £500 per day. My more general journalism which I do for fun in an area that interests me is £50 per day. There's no money in 'general'. Go niche. You still have all the benefits of freelance but you'll be able to do things like eat too!
To chip in too, it's brilliant working from home but don't underestimate the feast and famine to begin with as you're finding clients and the sheer stress of a busy patch. I find that my editing time is the thing that is eaten into - writers and designers run late so I pick up the slack as print date can't be moved. And jobs all seem to come in at once. Have never worked as hard as I do now (late nights, 5am starts, kids dumped in front of telly etc so I hit deadline). If I don't deliver on time and to a high standard I'm conscious there are lots of other highly qualified people waiting in the wings - there isn't the protective layer of being a proper employee.
That said, I take kids to and from school every day and when I'm not busy I can do whatever I want. There's no job on earth that would lure me back into an office now.
I agree with the others who say to use your speciality. Once you've got going with that you can branch out. Good luck!
Wow, this thread is brilliant, OP I could have pretty much written your post myself as there are so many parallels between us. I too am a lawyer thinking of proofreading as a potential career. I stopped work 3 months ago to have a career break/ go on maternity leave early (third child now due in two weeks!) and have already taken the step of starting the Publishing Training Centre's proofreading course. I didn't think too much about the likelihood of a future career, I just felt confident I would enjoy the course and it doesn't break the bank so I just decided to do it. I'm really enjoying it and it's good to read on this thread some confirmation that it is one of the main recognised and respected ones.
I too have begun to wonder though whether I'm wasting my time and will not be able to turn it into a living, and also whether I am really ready to leave the world of work I'm used to (the criminal bar, so very challenging and adrenalin-fuelled, also very people-orientated, but also increasingly bad for my mental health!).
I know it's not my thread but thanks for all the encouraging replies on here ! OP it's so good to hear from somebody in a similar position. Btw the PTC course is a distance course so it doesn't matter where you are. We should maybe try to keep a conversation going for general info and support. Realistically, because of the baby, I'm going to be having a fairly lengthy break from the course and indeed from any career-pursuing activities for a while. Would be good to hear how you get on.
I know this thread is old, but I wondering if either @lifeistooshort @eastegg have taken steps into the legal proofreading world? It's something I'm seriously considering so any tips/mutual support would be good.
Hi, checking back into this thread thanks to namechange's reminder! Currently with an awake 9 month old in a cafe so will have to return when I have a bit more time. I've done the PTC course and am now a bit confused about career paths and of course busy with baby and older kids but very interested to hear what OP is up to and to share ideas and experiences. Back soon!
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