Panel discussion: freelancers and in-house editors
On 23 April 2019, the Oxford Publishing Society held an online panel discussion entitled Freelancers and In-House Editors: Making it Work. The panel consisted of Sam Derby, Director of Oriel Square, Jo Issa, a primary maths publisher at OUP, and Atalanta Willcox, a freelance editor.
The panel discussed what makes for a positive working relationship between freelancers and in-house editors. All three panel members made insightful points and gave examples from their own experience, which meant that there were plenty of helpful tips to take away from the event.
I have summarised the points that I found most relevant as a freelance editor, I hope that you find my notes helpful!
The panellists all agreed that clear, honest communication is key. They had the following advice for freelancers:
Be conversational. Your busy in-house contact might find a phone call less time-consuming than replying to an email, and a chat over the phone will give you the chance to discuss and resolve any issues with the project.
Think about how you communicate queries. Aim to answer your own questions and solve problems for yourself.
Flag any issues early on in the project. This gives your in-house contact the chance to address the problem before the budget creeps up!
Establish your working relationship early on in the process, for example, be clear on the division of responsibilities.
Ask for support when you need it.
2. Working practices
Sam Derby of Oriel Square suggested holding brief daily stand ups so that team members remain in contact and potential issues can be flagged in good time. Jo Issa of OUP was also in favour of replacing emails with meetings where possible.
Sam suggested creating an auditable, collaborative project report every two weeks to outline steps taken and list the outstanding risks. As the freelancer and in-house editor produce this report together, it keeps communication open and ensures that team members are all on the same page.
Jo suggested using Trello to transfer files, which makes the handover process more transparent and avoids long email chains.
3. Tips for freelancers
Atalanta Willcox, freelance editor and proofreader, highlighted the importance of training and recommended joining a professional body, such as the CIEP, where freelancers can find community and support.
Atalanta also advocated networking at industry events, such as the ones held by the Independent Publishers Guild.
The panellists agreed that it was important for freelancers to have specialisms. Sam and Jo gave a few examples of specialist areas that were in demand, including the ability to run a course, video production, development editing, and the ability to lead a project well.
The panellists agreed that LinkedIn is a good way for freelancers to publicise their specialist fields. Jo suggested writing a LinkedIn article about a project that you've worked on, and Sam highlighted the importance of keeping LinkedIn profiles up to date.