Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby

Louise Harnby

Advanced Professional Member

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

After I graduated from university, I worked for a couple of London-based academic publishing houses for well over a decade. Then I had a child and moved to Norfolk. Launching an editorial business made sense – I could utilize my publishing skills and knowledge in a way that provided me with the flexibility I required within the home setting.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

Basic Proofreading by Distance Learning via The Publishing Training Centre (award: Distinction)

Editing Digital Products (The Publishing Training Centre)

Indexing Workshop for Editors and Proofreaders (Society of Indexers)

My in-house publishing experience gave me thirteen years of marketing 'training', which I consider to be crucial to the success of my business. And I've taught myself a range of skills that have proved invaluable along the way, including PDF markup, using macros, and building an SEO-rich website.

What work are you most proud of?

The assistance I've given to independent authors. Self-publishers require a delicate and careful hand that goes beyond traditional definitions of proofreading. I've often found myself wearing more of a copy-editor's hat – spotting plot holes or inconsistencies, for example – in addition to the standard proofreading issues I'm paid to deal with. I feel I've made a quantifiable difference to the quality of my indie-author clients' novels, and the feedback I've received from them backs this up.

What do you do if you're struggling on a job?

(1) I change tasks – proofreading requires multiple passes to look for certain problems, so if something's bugging me and I can't find a solution, I leave the task alone for a time and move on to something else. That way I can remain productive.

(2) If that doesn't work, I seek advice from my client or from a trusted colleague.

What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?

I value the collective wisdom of the membership as a whole, and the friendship and guidance from a smaller number of colleagues whom I've come to know well. I also think that society membership tells my clients something about me – that I'm committed to upholding professional standards, and that, in terms of my membership grading, they can be confident in the quality of service I provide.

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I don't have a favourite task as such. Rather, it's the variety that keeps a job interesting and enables me to stay fresh. Whether I'm proofreading line by line for sense, spelling, punctuation and grammar problems; checking/formatting for an aesthetically pleasing and professional layout; or creating a style sheet that my client can refer to, I use these separate tasks as natural 'breakers' that help me to look at the text in different ways over multiple passes.

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

My pet peeves are with peevers themselves – those who fail to recognize the difference between rules and preferences, which are two completely different things. I think that high-quality editorial work needs to be sensitive to audience, regional variations, genre, external-agency requirements, and authorial voice. So the things I'm pedantic about may be very different depending on whether I'm working with a scholar, a fiction author, a business or a publisher.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

When I launched my editorial business in 2006, I hadn't anticipated just how much the self-publishing market was going to grow.  I also hadn't banked on becoming an author myself, yet I now have a couple of editorial-business books under my belt: Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

What's the best career advice you've received?

(1) When freelancing for regular clients, you're only as good as your last job.

(2) When freelancing for any client, follow the brief!

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

If you're freelance, then you're running a business first and foremost. Do the business planning first so that you know who your target customers are, how you are going to reach them, what skills you have that are most marketable, what you need to earn to make your business sustainable, what your setup costs will be, and which training is most respected by your primary client groups. That way you can invest wisely and avoid mistakes. 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail' – it's been said many times, by many people, but I think that adage makes good sense for anyone setting up their own business, editorial or otherwise.

Do you ever stop editing?

Yes, absolutely! I'm not one of those who live and breathe editorial work. I have a child, a husband, friends, and a dog – my relationships with them aren't dependent on my working life as a proofreader any more than theirs with me are dependent on how they spend their days. I love my job, but it is my job!

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

I really love camping – camping in a bell tent with electricity, and duvets, and proper pillows, and fairy lights, and bunting, and halogen heaters, and ground coffee in one-cup filters (like you get on planes), and light-weight cordless vacuum cleaners, and rugs, and … well, you get the picture: Bear Grylls I ain't.

The SfEP does not give any special endorsement to the members who appear in Meet our members. If you are looking for an editorial professional, we recommend you search the Directory of Editorial Services.