All the tools you need to be a copy editor

When a friend was retrenched and asked me what you need to set yourself up as a freelance proofreader or editor, I mentally went though the tools I use and gave her a rundown. It occurred to me the list might be useful to others. So here it is:

1. A desk of your own. This might seem too obvious and not worth listing. But it’s important to make it conscious. You can do anything on the kitchen table, in a pinch. But the concentration levels required to edit anything means you need a quiet spot to call your own. I have a big table in a communal entertainment room, which works for me since it is empty most of the day. And when people come home, I can greet them with joy. (The other benefit of having your own desk is that you can tidy it up when procrastinating.)

2. A computer and a printer. In fact, if and when you can afford it, two computers are better. That helps when checking changes from one document to another – you can have them up on two screens simultaneously. I’m not going into specifics about kind of computer, save to say that a laptop/notebook is better than a PC – because you can keep working through loadshedding. And stick to an operating system that’s likely to be compatible with the rest of the world – basically that means Windows or IOS. About the printer… yes we supposedly live in a paperless world, but I find that one round of editing on paper in any given project is essential.

3. A good Internet connection. You need to do research. People will send you documents to download. Clients will email you. And you can procrastinate on several social media platforms at once if need be. (To keep my Internet connection going during loadshedding I have a UPS to keep the router powered up. And my husband has rigged up battery-powered lighting for those early morning stints – more about that here.)

4. You need industry-compatible software. You can use the open source versions when you start out, but when you can afford it, I would highly recommend buying Office 365 – word processing, spreadsheets and a note app make it useful, and mean that you are using the same software as most of your clients. And its One Drive feature means all your work is in the cloud: that alone is worth the money. (Yes – you can use Google Drive – but I find their document processing to be streets behind Office). Adobe Reader DC is free, and can be used for proofing on PDF. And Gmail is my go-to email client.

5. You need to start finding your own online resources, and bookmarking them in some organised way. Dictionaries, picture sources, bloggers who cover the industry.

6. This is not essential but I would highly recommend joining a local association. I am a member of the Professional Editor’s Guild and find it invaluable. There’s an email support group, free access to the Oxford Online dictionary and training opportunities.

Main picture: Slava Keyzman on Unsplash

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